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Speelman v. Pascal

    Brief Fact Summary. A theater producer assigned to his Executive Secretary certain sums of money yet to be earned from a movie and play he was working on.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. An assignment is enforceable even though at the time the assignment is made there is no "presently enforcible or even existing chose in action but merely a possibility that there would be such a chose of action".

    Facts. The Appellant, Valerie Pascal (the "Appellant") is the Administratrix of J. Gabriel Pascal's ("Mr. Pascal") will.  Mr. Pascal who died in 1954, was a theatrical producer.  In 1952, a corporation controlled by Mr. Pascal obtained the rights to produce a version of "Pygmalion" as a musical play and as a motion picture from George Bernard Shaw ("Mr. Shaw"). The agreement required Mr. Pascal's corporate to pay 3% of the gross receipts of the musical play and musical movie to Mr. Shaw's estate.  Mr. Pascal could not complete the entire production of "Pygmalion" prior to his death.  Prior to his death, on February 22, 1954, Mr. Pascal assigned in writing a percentage of the profits earned on "Pygmalion" to his Executive Secretary.  This letter was delivered to the Executive Secretary.

    Issue. "Did the delivery of this paper constitute a valid, complete, present gift to plaintiff by way of assignment of a share in future royalties when and if collected from the exhibition of the musical stage version and film version of 'Pygmalion'?"

    Held. Yes.  Although the musical or film were not in existence at the time of his death, Mr. Pascal owned the rights to them and could grant to another a share of any monies that were to accrue.  Many courts have enforced assignment "of rights to sums which were expected thereafter to become due to the assignor."  Additionally, unlike other cases, there was "completed and irrevocable" delivery here.

    Discussion. This case demonstrates that parties can assign sums of money even if at the time the assignment is made that money is not in there possession.


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