The Law School Authority

Bright v. Ganas Case Brief

Summary of Bright v. Ganas
Ct. of App. Maryland [1937]

Relevant Facts: Pl, Ganas, preceded his father then engaged in the restaurant business worked principally as a waiter.  He became acquainted w/ Darden, who then engaged Pl as a servant or man of all work.  Ganas continued until Darden’s death for approx. 27 yrs.  Contained in the record is a specific agreement for the payment of $20,000 out of the estate, to Ganas, if he served Darden “faithfully and continuously” until his death. Mrs. D found a letter on her bed addressed to her issued by the pl.  It stated that the pl had designs on his employer’s wife.  2 hrs after the funeral she showed the executor the letter and told him the pl must get out of the house. Pl had written on the envelope “If I lose my job by this note–at least I would gain my peace of mind.” The record does not provide any excuse or justification for the pl’s behavior.

Legal Issue(s): Whether faithfully and continuously was a condition precedent or a promise for the payment of $20,000?

Court’s Holding: Promise

Procedure: Jury judgment for the Pl.  Df appealed; Reversed w/o trial.

Law or Rule(s): Every servant impliedly stipulates that both his words and his behavior in regard to his master and his master’s family shall be respected and free from insolence.  A breach of this stipulation is unquestionably a valid reason for dismissing the servant, especially when it is accompanied by other conduct which would of itself justify a rescission of the contract.

Court Rationale: If the act of writing and delivering the letter soliciting Darden’s wife was such that it would have caused his discharge, if his employer had known, then it is available to the executor as a defense.    This is one entire contract and the pl was entitled to the full consideration of his contract or none of it. If unfaithfulness and disloyalty was sufficient to warrant his immediate discharge by his employer, had it been known to him, then Pl’s right to compensation has been forfeited.

What constitutes good and sufficient cause for the discharge of a servant is a question of law, and where the facts are undisputed, it is for the court to say whether the discharge was justified. There are cases . .. so flagrant and so manifestly contrary to the implied conditions arising from . . .master and servant which should exist between them that they can be decided by the court as matters of law.

The violation of the agreement by the Pl was so flagrant, unjustified, and inexcusable as to justify his discharge, and, if by it he earned his discharge, then he cannot recover.

Plaintiff’s Argument: It is for the jury to decide whether the letter constituted unfaithfulness and disloyalty.

Defendant’s Argument: The Pl’s breach of a promise to remain faithful and loyal voids his recovery.

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