Parker v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.

Supreme Court of California, 1970.

3 Cal.3d 176, 89 Cal.Rptr. 737, 474 P.2d 689.

Dawson, p. 47-53


Facts: Shirley MacLaine had a contract with 20th Century Fox to do a musical for $750,000.  Fox breached the contract and offered instead to give the plaintiff the lead in a western for the same amount of money.  The plaintiff sued for the $750,000, and the trial court granted her summary judgment.


Issue: Can a defendant’s offer of alternate employment mitigate the damages from the breach of the original employment contract?


Rule: The damages to a wrongfully dismissed employee should be the salary for the period of the contract minus the amount the employer affirmatively proves the employee did earn or could have earned from another similar job.


Analysis: The main reason the court upholds the summary judgment is that the defendant failed to produce evidence supporting its defense, thus no factual issue was raised.  The only defense is that the substitute offer of employment is “substantially similar” to the originally offered employment.


In dissent, Chief Justice Sullivan argues that the quality of the alternative employment proposed and its similarity to the work offered in the contract is a question of fact that ought to have been determined in a trial.


Conclusion: The court affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment.  Chief Justice Sullivan dissented.


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