Sullivan v. O’Connor Case Brief

Summary of Sullivan v. O’Connor
S. Ct. Mass. 1973


Facts: Plaintiff was an entertainer who contracted with a physician to enhance her beauty and improve her appearance by performing plastic surgery upon her nose. After three surgeries the physician failed to deliver the promised result and in fact the plaintiff was permanently disfigured.

Issue: Should the trial court’s jury instructions been directed toward reliance or expectation damages for a breach of contract involving special arrangement with patient/doctor?

Holding: The defendants objections (exceptions) should be overruled and the plaintiff’s exceptions waived as requested in her brief.

Rule: Contract requires: Remedies available under breach:

a) Offer; A) Expectation;

b) Acceptance; B) Reliance;

c) Awareness of Consideration; Damage was foreseeable from the breach

Party relied upon promise to his/her damage

Out of pocket expense

Direct damages from breach

Pain and suffering for 3rd surgery

Procedure: Jury trial found breach of contract existed but not malpractice/negligence.

Ct. Rationale: There was a breach of a contract. Next is the measurement of damages: Since the Plaintiff had to endure pain and suffering as a result of the Defendant’s breach, therefore the difference between the p & s she would have experienced during the first, second surgeries, minus the p & s she was caused by the breach or the third surgery. Damages should be awarded for any worsening of the plaintiff’s condition resulting from the breach. A breach of a patient-doctor special agreement should have damages awarded which place the plaintiff back in the position he occupied just before the parties entered upon the agreement, for the harm suffered in “reliance," upon that agreement.

The p & s was wasted during the first two surgeries, and because a third was required, due to the breach, this waste is compensable to restore back to status quo.

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