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Chicago Coliseum Club v. Dempsey

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Chicago Coliseum Club (Plaintiff) brought action against boxer William Harrison Dempsey to recover damages for breach of a written contract to engage in a boxing match against Harry Wills, which the Plaintiff was supposed to promote. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The proper measure of damages for a breach in a performance contract includes the time period between the signing of the contract and the time of the breach.  To be recoverable, expenses must be incurred in furtherance of the general scheme. 

    Facts.

    The parties entered into the contract in March, 1926 for a boxing match which was to take place in September.  In August, Dempsey sent a telegram to the Plaintiff stating that there was no contract, which amounted to a repudiation of the agreement.  The Plaintiff commenced an action to enjoin Dempsey from engaging in any other boxing matches, and seeking monetary damages.  A decree was entered in the Indiana superior court finding there was a valid contract between the parties, that the Plaintiff had expended large sums of money carrying out its obligations under the agreement, and enjoining Dempsey from participating in other boxing matches or contracts.    

    Issue.

    Which of the following four propositions offered by the Plaintiff could properly be awarded as damages for the Defendant’s breach? 

    Loss of profits which would have been derived by the plaintiff if the boxing match had taken place;
    Expenses incurred by the plaintiff prior to signing the agreement;
    Expenses incurred in attempting to restrain the defendant from engaging in other contests and to force him into a compliance with the terms of the agreement; and
    Expenses incurred after the signing of the agreement.

    Held.

    The judgment of the circuit court was reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial. 

    The Plaintiff itself admitted that it could not predict the amount of profit it would have made when it requested injunctive relief.  Lost profits from a boxing match that never took place were too speculative to be recoverable.
    Any expenses assumed by the Plaintiff prior to entering into the contract could not be charged to the Defendant. 
    The expenses incurred by the Plaintiff in procuring the decree were not recoverable, as it had already been informed that Defendant intended to proceed no further and took such steps at its own risk.
    Other evidence regarding money paid by the Plaintiff in preparation for the match should have been submitted to the jury, including a $10 payment to the Defendant and $300 paid to an architect to make plans for the contest in the stadium.  Other expenses, including railroad fares for employees who went to Los Angeles to sign the contract with the Defendant, were recoverable if incurred in furtherance of the general scheme.

    Dissent.

    None.

    Concurrence.

    None.

    Discussion.

    The items recoverable were those incurred after the agreement was signed and before the breach by the defendant, and such as were incurred as a necessary expense in furtherance of performance. 


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