Lumley v. Wagner
42 Eng. Rep. 687 England - 1852
- P contracted with D to have her sing in his theatre for 3 months.
- D subsequently agreed to sing in another theatre.
- P sued D in a court of equity seeking an injunction to keep D from singing in other theatres.
- Lower court found for P, injunction granted.
- Chancery court affirmed, found for P, injunction granted.
- Can an injunction be granted to enforce a negative covenant of a contract?
- An injunction can be granted to enforce a negative covenant of a contract.
- This contract contains a positive covenant (the requirement that the singer sing for the theatre) and a negative covenant (the implied requirement that she wouldn't sing in a different theatre).
- Courts should not enforce necessarily enforce positive covenants like these since we don't want to force employees to work for employers they don't want to work for.
- However, courts can enforce negative covenants if the commodity in question in the contract is sufficiently rare or has a specific talent.
- These types of injunctions should be granted in situations where the remedy at law in inadequate; forcing her to pay for breach would not adequately compensate the P for losing this major talent and having her defect to a different theatre (and it would probably be pretty hard to estimate the damages).
- Specific performance?
- The court will not force her to work with the opera company because of the public policy that the courts will not force persons to perform a personal service for someone else.
- The remedy, then, is a negative injunction to try to push her back to her original employer.