Britton v. Turner

Supreme Court of New Hampshire, 1834.

6 N.H. 481.

Dawson, pp. 115-118


Facts: The plaintiff and defendant made a one-year employment contract.  The plaintiff stopped working after 9.5 months.  The jury awarded him $95 out of the full $120.  The defendant appealed on the basis that the plaintiff should get nothing because the work had been done under a so-called “special contract”.


Issue: May the breaching party recover for services rendered?


Rule: NEW RULE!  A hired laborer is entitled to compensation for work actually performed unless there is an express stipulation to the contrary in the contract.


Analysis: The court makes an analogy between labor contracts and contracts to build houses.  When you build only part of a house and then breach, you are entitled to restitution damages for the value you conferred upon the other party.  The old rule was that if you voluntarily failed to fulfill an employment contract, you were not entitled to recover anything for the work you had done.  The court feels that even though precedent says differently, the better rule is the one above.


Conclusion: The court upheld the jury’s verdict.


Back to Reliance and Restitution

Back to Casebook Notes