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The King of Rockingham County and the Original Bridge to Nowhere


This chapter, reveals the story -- the clash of personalities, the economic tensions, and the political significance -- behind Rockingham County v. Luten Bridge Co. Since its publication in 1929, the opinion has proceeded to leave an impression on generations of law students. Luten Bridge, a staple in most contracts casebooks, is known today as the paradigmatic case that demonstrates the duty to mitigate damages in contract law, whereby a nonbreaching party is not compensated for performance that occurs after the other party announces an intention to breach. This chapter takes on three objectives: it identifies the case\u27s original importance, uncovers the opinion\u27s political and jurisprudential significance, and tells a remarkable story, one that arose within a heated tax revolt pitting the county\u27s farmers against its most celebrated industrialist. Much more than a crisp illustration of the duty to mitigate, Rockingham County v. The Luten Bridge Co. offers a window into a southern community\u27s struggles with a divided social order, the introduction of wealth into local politics, and a changing economy

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This paper was published in Duke Law Scholarship Repository.

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