The Vulture Should Have Sued for Breach of Contract

Seriously, call a lawyer instead of becoming a black market arms dealer.

Villains in Marvel Cinematic Universe turn to a life of crime for multiple reasons. Loki had father issues fueling his alliance with Thanos to invade Earth. Wilson Fisk wanted to make New York a better place through Federal redevelopment programs (and racketeering) after the Battle of New York. For Adrian Toomes, the City of New York breaching its cleanup contract due to the Federal Government claiming exclusive jurisdiction for the remediation of Chitauri technology in the aftermath of the Battle of New York, was his reason for becoming a murdering arms dealer. It would have made more sense to seek legal representation, because Toomes should have sued for breach of contract.

Adrian Toomes had a valid contract with the City of New York to remove the alien weaponry that was littered across Manhattan. Toomes had begun performance of his contract and incurred costs for additional vehicles to complete his contractual obligations. If not for Damage Control stopping his contractual performance, Toomes would have competed the cleanup of Chitauri wreckage across Manhattan.

The New York City – Toomes Contract was a construction contract under N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 756, which covers everything from demolition to excavation to improvement to land. New York City could claim that the original contract became unenforceable from the Federal Government claiming exclusive jurisdiction for the removal of alien technology. If this was a valid argument, that would not excuse either New York City or the Federal Government from having to pay Toomes for work performed.

Contracts can be unenforceable as a matter of public policy if there is 1) legislation stating the agreement is unenforceable; or 2) if public policy outweighs the enforcement of the agreement. See, generally Restat 2d of Contracts, § 178(1) (2nd 1981).

The Federal Government had a valid interest in ensuring public safety from alien weapons and technology scattered across Manhattan. Enacting legislation creating Damage Control to respond to superhuman destruction would be a valid reason for the New York City – Toomes contract to become unenforceable. However, Toomes had already begun work and spent significant funds after entering into the contract with New York City.

Adrian Toomes had valid expectation, reliance, and restitution interests for his contract with New York City. As such, Toomes is entitled to damages for the breach of contract under multiple theories.

Toomes, at a minimum, is entitled to damages of the contract price (or unpaid portion) minus the cost of completion (cost avoided by not having to complete performance). See, Restat 2d of Contracts, § 348(2)(b). Alternatively, another damages formula would be for the work that had been completed, plus for the remaining portion of the work, and the profit that would have been made from that work. Murray on Contracts, p 682, citing Kehoe v. Rutherford, 56 N.J.L. 23, 27 A. 912 (1893).

That is not the end of Toomes’ damages analysis. Toomes spent substantial funds in reliance upon the contract AND performed his contractual obligations, before Damage Control shut him down. Toomes would be entitled to consequential damages for his costs and for the work performed, to avoid the unjust enrichment of the Federal Government or New York City.

The remedy for breach of contract is NOT illegal weapons manufacturing with alien technology. Adrian Toomes should have immediately contacted a attorney to seek damages from both New York City and the Federal Government. While both prospective defendants would point to the other on who is financially responsible to Toomes, with the Federal Government claiming it is New York City, and New York City [rightly] arguing it was Federal interference that caused the breach of contract, a good plaintiff’s lawyer would sue both.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.