Contracts II, Pages 1128–1135

Parker v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.

Supreme Court of California, 1970

Facts:

Plaintiff, a well-known actress, was to play the female lead in defendant's movie for a guaranteed compensation of $750,000 over 14 weeks. Defendant decided to not produce the movie and notified plaintiff of this, but offered to employ her as the female lead in another film to avoid damage. However, instead of a musical filmed in California, the new movie was a western filmed in Australia. It also did not give plaintiff approval rights to the director like the first contract did. Plaintiff did not accept this offer and sued for the $750,000 she contracted for.

Procedural History:

Trial court granted summary judgment to plaintiff.

Issue:

Did plaintiff have a duty to mitigate by accepting defendant's offer for another movie?

Rule:

An employee cannot recover for what they could have reasonably earned from other employment. However, the employer must show that the other employment was comparable, or substantially similar, to the deprived employment. The rejection of employment of a different or inferior kind is not a defense for the employer.

See Also:

R2C § 350

Reasoning:

  • The employment was clearly different. Being the lead role in a western movie taking place in an opal mine in Australia cannot be considered substantially similar to the lead in a song-and-dance musical in Los Angeles.

  • The substitute offer did not give plaintiff the ability to approve of the director or screenplay, making it an inferior offer.

Holding:

Plaintiff was excused from attempting to mitigate damages. Affirmed.

Dissenting Opinion:

Sullivan: It is not sufficient that two jobs have differences; they must be of different kinds. The majority states that being the female lead in a western is different than being the female lead in a musical without actually proving it or addressing how the facts are significant. Such a determination requires facts not available on a summary judgment motion. This should be reversed so that these facts can be determined.

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