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Shirley MacLaine Parker v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Case Brief

Summary of Shirley MacLaine Parker v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
474 P.2d 689, 89 Cal.Rptr. 737
Supreme Court of California, Sept. 30, 1970.

FACTS: Plaintiff Shirley MacLaine Parker (hereinafter referred to as Parker) contracted with the film company, Twentieth Century Fox (hereinafter referred to as Fox) to play the female lead in a musical motion picture entitled “Bloomer Girl.”  Parker would have been able to use her talents as both a dancer and an actress in the movie and was to be paid $750,000 for the part.

Prior to the start of filming, Fox informed Parker that they would not be producing Bloomer Girl.  As compensation, Fox offered Parker the lead in a dramatic western entitled “Big Country, Big Man” (hereinafter referred to as Big Country) for the same amount of money – $750,000.  Parker was given one week to accept and she refused.  Parker then sought recovery of agreed upon compensation.

HISTORY: The trial court granted summary judgment to Parker.  Fox appealed.

ISSUE: Was the job that Fox offered Parker in Big Country comparable employment and was Parker obligated to accept to mitigate damages?

HOLDING: No.  Parker did not fail to mitigate damages by refusing to accept the part in Big Country, as the role was not comparable to that of Bloomer Girl.  The California Supreme Court affirms the trial court’s summary judgment. Judge Sullivan dissents.

RULE/ANALYSIS: The general rule is that the measure of recovery by a wrongfully discharged employee is the amount of salary agreed upon for the period of service, less the amount which the employer affirmatively proves the employee has earned or with reasonable effort might have earned from other employment.  However, before projected earnings from other employment opportunities not sought or accepted by the discharged employee can be applied in mitigation, the employer must show that the other employment was comparable, or substantially similar, to that of which the employee has been deprived; the employee’s rejection of or failure to seek other available employment of a different or inferior kind may not be resorted to in order to mitigate damages.

SUMMARY: In this case, the California Supreme Court (with the exception of Judge Sullivan) felt it was clear that the offer of the lead in “Big Country” was both different and inferior to the lead in the musical “Bloomer Girl.”  “Big Country” was a dramatic Western to be filmed in Australia; whereas “Bloomer Girl” was to be a musical review using Parker’s talents as both an actress and a dancer and was to be filmed in California.  Plaintiff was under no obligation to accept the inferior role and was not unreasonable in her refusal to mitigate the damages.

Judge Sullivan dissented, noting that a trial should have been conducted to determine whether the part offered  in Big Country was substantially similar to the part offered in Bloomer Girl.

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