Sullivan v. O’Connor

Procedural History

  • Supreme judicial court of mass.
  • Breach of contract on plaintiff’s nose. Plaintiff was awarded, by a jury trial the sum of $13,500, promised to enhance the beauty and improve her appearance.
  • Instead, subjected her to further damages and expenses and did not achieve the contractual result as promised.
  • Exception = exclusion.
  • Supreme Court ruled the defendant’s exceptions should be over-ruled.



  • Questions about the correctness of the judge’s instructions on the issue of damages to the jury.
    • Disfigurement of the plaintiff’s nose.
    • Change of appearance for worse, including the effects of disfigurement on the plaintiff’s mind, and the plaintiff’s profession.
    • This is a case about reliance interest being that the plaintiff should be put back as to if the contract was enacted correctly.
    • Restitution and Expectancy don’t hit home. Too meager, and too much.
    • Types of remedies that are permissible by court, this is about damages
    • Agreements between patients and physicians by which the physician undertakes to affect a cure or bring about a given result should be declared unenforceable on the grounds of public policy.
    • Courts, are at the heart, skeptical about contracts between patients and doctors.
    • Difficult to promise a result.
  1. Out of pocket expenses.
  2. Recover damages flowing directly, naturally, proximately and foreseeably from the defendant’s breach of contract.


  • Did the judge err in allowing the jury to take anything into account but the plaintiff’s out-of-pocket expenses?
  • Couldn’t recover damages for third surgery?
  • Can’t not allow contracts in patient-doctor relationships, but can’t completely allow them to hold water either….You would either scare doctor’s away, or scare patients from “preventative practices.”
  • “The law has taken a middle ground,
    • Allowing actions based on alleged contracts, but insisting on CLEAR proof.
  • Should have used the expectancy formula – expectancy recovery.
    • Difference between the value of a good or perfect nose, as promised, and the value of the nose AFTER the bad operation.
  • Were damages foreseeable by the doctor?


  • Plaintiff’s exceptions waived, defendants exceptions overruled.


  • Use expectancy formula in a case like this. Thus reliance interest of the patient on the doctor. Doctor “breached the contract” based upon reliance.


  • The law has taken the middle road of allowing actions based on alleged contract, but insisting on clear proof.
  • If breach of contract is allowed, damages must be measured based upon, reliance interests of the patient to doctor relationship.


  • Defendant overruled.
  • Plaintiff’s exceptions waived.

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