Harris v. Watson Case Brief

Summary of Harris v. Watson
King’s Bench, 1791

Pre-Existing Duty – Common Law

Relevant Facts: The pl was a seaman on board a ship, which the df was the commander and owner. The df offered to pay additional wages, because the ship was in danger, if the pl would perform extra work. The cargo was lost.

Legal Issue(s): Whether an implied condition can exist as a claim of an exception to a valid contract based on dangerous situations?

Court’s Holding:Yes

Procedure: Plaintiff brought suit and the court dismissed.

Law or Rule(s): If the freight of a ship is lost, all wages are lost.

Court Rationale: A long standing policy has been that if the cargo of a ship is lost, all the sailor’s wages are lost also. This prevents the sailor’s from scuttling the ships to collect wages without working, or the sailor’s would extort their money from the captain in exchange.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The df promised to pay additional money for additional work which the pl performed.

Defendant’s Argument: All the cargo was lost, a condition upon the success of which was dependant to pay the crew.



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