Parker v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (California 1970)

Definitions: anticipatorily repudiated: describes a declaration by the promising party to a contract, that he or she does not intend to live up to his or her obligations under the contract.

Procedural History: Plaintiff moved for summary judgment, granted for $750,000 plus interest. Defendant appealed.

Facts: Shirley MacLaine Parker is a well known actress contracted to play the female lead in defendant’s contemplated production of a musical motion picture entitled “Bloomer Girl.” The contract provided for $750,000 over a 14 week period, and stated that the picture would be filmed in Los Angeles. The defendant decided not to produce “Bloomer Girl,” and instead offered Parker the lead actress role in a movie she had shown a general interest in earlier, titled “Big Country, Big Man,” a dramatic Western to be filmed in Australia. While 31 of 34 contract terms remained the same, due to the accelerated nature of the filming schedule, Parker was no longer entitled to approval of a director or screenplay for the film.

Legal Issue:  Should the offer for a replacement film serve to mitigate damages to Parker so that defendant would not be liable for damages in breaching the contract with Parker?

Rules: The measure of recovery for a wrongfully discharged employee is the amount of salary agreed upon for the period of service, less the amount the employer proves the employee has earned or with reasonable effort might have earned from other employment.

Employer must also show that other employment was substantially similar and not different or inferior.

Application: The court claimed that summary judgment was appropriate because it was “obvious” that the offer in employment for the Western film was substantially different and interior to the contract established for “Bloomer Girl.” The court also established that it was reasonable for Parker to decline this updated offer and that she should receive full compensation for the agreed upon salary to be paid, plus interest.

Holding: Summary judgment affirmed. When a consequent employment offer after a contract breach is substantially different or inferior to the previously agreed upon employment contract, the second offer cannot be used to mitigate damages for breach of a contract.

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