Jaffray v. King

Decision Date24 February 1871
Citation34 Md. 217
PartiesEDWARD S. JAFFRAY, and others, v. JOHN KING, of WILLIAM.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Baltimore City.

The cause was argued before BARTOL, C.J., MAULSBY, MILLER, ALVEY and ROBINSON, J.

William A. Fisher, for the appellants.

By the true construction of the agreement, the appellants were entitled to the entire time and services of the appellee, and the instruction is vicious on this point.

The dealings of the appellee with Butterfield & Co. were inconsistent with his duties as a salesman for the appellants, and afforded sufficient ground for his discharge and he is therefore entitled only to his salary up to the time of his dismissal.

The instruction given by the Court as to the measure of damages was wholly erroneous. The narr. contained the common counts, but none for work and labor, and a count for the wrongful dismissal of the appellee, and the action was instituted before the expiration of the period of the hiring and the evidence was applicable only to the count for the wrongful dismissal. In an action of such character, the Court could not properly instruct the jury that the appellee was entitled to any particular amount of damages. Smith vs. Thompson, 8 Com. Bench, 41; Smith on Master and Servant, 75 Law Lib., 98.

The jury should have been directed that the measure of damages would be the contract price, reduced by what the appellee actually did earn after the dismissal, and what he might have earned by due and reasonable diligence. Smith's Master and Servant, 75 Law Lib., 95, 96; Mayne on Damages, 92 Law Lib., 108; Jones vs. Jones, 4 Md., 609; Elderton vs. Emmory, 6 Com. Bench, 178; Goodman vs. Pocock, 15 Queen's Bench, 583; McKean vs. Cowley, 7 L. T. N. S., 828; Hartland vs. Gen. Ex. Bank, 14 L. T. N. S., 863; Wright vs. Falkner, 37 Ala., 274; Sherman vs. Champlain Trans. Co., 31 Vt., 162; Castigan vs. Mohawk and Hudson Railroad Co., 2 Denio, 609.

R. Stockett Matthews, for the appellee.

The contract being a written one, speaks for itself. It must be construed according to the plain intent and meaning of the parties. There is no ambiguity in it. It is simply a contract of hiring, and does not profess to engage the exclusive time and services of the plaintiff. No evidence of custom was introduced to explain the nature and extent of similar contracts among persons engaged in the dry-goods trade, in the relation in which the plaintiff stood towards the defendants, namely, that of an agent non-resident at the home of the principal.

The word "salesman" in the contract, is equivalent to agent--an agent for limited purposes, and with limited powers.

The instruction of the Court below was therefore right, with reference to the manifest agreement of the parties, "that by the true construction of the contract contained in the letter of February 19, 1869, the plaintiff did not engage to give his whole time to the business of the defendants, but engaged to serve them efficiently and in good faith as their salesman in the city of Baltimore."

Even if the most rigorous construction be placed upon the "agreement" of the parties, the appellee had done nothing to violate its terms, or to contravene its spirit. The Court fairly informed the jury as to the true gravamen of the issue, and left it to them to find from the evidence whether the plaintiff had done anything "in violation of his duty to, and injuriously to the interests of the defendants," and the jury found that he had not.

If the defendants had shown that the plaintiff had been personally and actually selling goods for another house, they would still have been compelled to show, not simply a literal violation of the agreement, but that the plaintiff had failed to perform his duty in some manner, or in some way essential to their interest--in other words, that the alleged dereliction of duty was in some matter which injured them, and prevented the plaintiff from performing his proper duty to them. Fillieul vs. Armstrong, 7 Ad. & El., 557; Freeman vs. Taylor, 8 Bing., 124; Remile vs. Hall, 31 Vermont, 582; Franklin vs. Miller, 4 A. & E., 599.

Under the special count, the plaintiff could recover damages for his wrongful dismissal, and the measure of damages was the stipulated amount subject to proper deductions, if any, which would have been earned had the contract remained intact; that amount was not recoverable qua salary, but as damages in the nature of compensation for the injury sustained by the plaintiff at the hands of the defendants. And in instructing the jury that the plaintiff, if they should find him guiltless of the alleged violation of his contract, "was entitled to recover his whole salary from May 1st to June 30th inclusive, less the amount in his hands unaccounted for," the Court simply meant to indicate the least measure of damages which the jury were at liberty to award, subject to proper deductions. The measure of damages was such a sum as the plaintiff would have earned had the "agreement" remained unrevoked by the appellants, less the amount in his hands to be credited to them.

MILLER J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

This suit, begun by attachment on warrant, was brought by the appellee against the appellants, merchants of New York city, to recover damages for the wrongful dismissal of the plaintiff by the defendants from their service and employment. The contract between the parties was in writing, and is contained in the following letter, addressed by the defendants to the plaintiff, dated the 19th of February, 1869:

" Dear Sir: We hereby engage your services as salesman from this date, 'till the 30th of June next inclusive, at the rate of $350 per month. Your particular field will be the city of Baltimore, and you are at liberty to solicit all such dealers there as we do not already sell to. All new trade
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6 cases
  • Martin v. Board of Ed. of Lincoln County
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • 22 Noviembre 1938
    ...have been incompatible with his contractual service. Gates v. School District, 57 Ark. 370, 376, 21 S.W. 1060, 38 Am.St.Rep. 249; Jaffray v. King, 34 Md. 217; Sedgwick, Damages Ed.), sec. 667, p. 1354; Sutherland, Damages (4th Ed.), sec. 693, pp. 2564, 2565. Here, all that the record disclo......
  • Atholwood Development Co. v. Houston
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • 30 Abril 1941
    ...discharge could likewise have been earned by him without a vilation of his duty under the contract if he had not been discharged. Jaffray v. King, 34 Md. 217; Wandell Chocolate Co. v. Goldsmith, 142 Md. 148, A. 342; 1 Labatt, Master and Servant, sec. 390; 39 C.J., Master and Servant, sec. 1......
  • Gates v. School District
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • 11 Marzo 1893
    ...sustained were actually less. Walworth v. Pool, 9 Ark. 394; Costigan v. Railway Co. 2 Denio 609; Gillis v. Space, 63 Barb. 177; Jaffray v. King, 34 Md. 217; v. Steiren, 44 Pa. 99. The fact, the appellant was discharged, without cause, before the expiration of the time for which he was emplo......
  • Griffin v. The Oklahoma Natural Gas Corporation
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • 11 Abril 1931
    ... ... 365 (which distinguishes ... between income obtained from employment, and income from ... rents, investments, etc.); Jaffray et al. v. King, ... 34 Md. 217 (rule recognized, proof insufficient); Lee v ... Hampton, 79 Miss. 321, 30 So. 721; Kramer v. Wolf ... Cigar ... ...
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