Contracts II, Pages 1091–1102

Redgrave v. Boston Symphony Orchestra, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, 1988

Facts:

Defendant hired plaintiff to to narrate in a series of concerts. Defendant then received complaints for hiring plaintiff, as she was opposed to the nation of Israel. Defendant cancelled its contract with plaintiff, who sued for breach of contract.

Procedural History:

Jury found that defendant wrongfully breached its contract and awarded plaintiff her performance fee of $27,500, as well as $100,000 in consequential damages by causing the loss of future opportunities. The district court overturned this, finding that plaintiff's theory of consequential damages implicated the First Amendment.

Issues:

  • Can consequential damages be awarded for harm to one's professional career?

  • Did plaintiff present sufficient evidence to establish that defendant's cancellation caused consequential harm?

Plaintiff's Argument:

Plaintiff did not receive a number of offers that she ordinarily would have received. This is because defendant cancelled its contract.

Defendant's Argument:

Even if the First Amendment is inapplicable, the evidence of the consequential damages was insufficient to support the verdict.

Rules:

  • Page 1094, Paragraph 3Virtually all jurisdiction hold that damages for reputation are not available in contract actions.

  • LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 1097, Top, C.

    [T]o receive consequential damages, the plaintiff must establish a "basis for an inference of fact" that the plaintiff has actually been damaged

Reasoning:

  • Page 1095, BottomReputation damages are not allowed for being "unduly speculative" and for not being within the parties contemplation at the time of contract formation. However, plaintiff is not claiming a general harm to her reputation, but specifically that a number of movies and theaters did not offer a job when they usually would have.

  • Page 1096, BottomAwarding relief raises no First Amendment issues because the damages flowed from the cancellation, not any protected communication about her.

  • Page 1097, Paragraph 3To prove that defendant's cancellation resulted in the loss of other professional opportunities, plaintiff must present sufficient facts for a jury to reasonably infer such. She provided some such evidence, but only enough to support a finding of $12,000 minus expenses.

  • Page 1100–1101The other producers could have just been motivated by the same factors as defendant was, as testimony shows they may have been. Plaintiff offered no evidence that the other three referenced productions cancelled because of this. In fact, none of them were performed on Broadway at all.

Rule/Holding:

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 1096, Middle-Bottomish

[A]s a matter of Massachusetts contract law, a plaintiff may receive consequential damages if the plaintiff proves with sufficient evidence that a breach of contract proximately caused the loss of identifiable professional opportunities.

Holding:

Plaintiff produced sufficient evidence for a jury to award her $12,000 minus the expense to perform, but not $100,000.

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