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Bettini v Gye (1875) LR 1 QBD

Breach of a condition of a contract

Facts

The claimant, Alessandro Bettini (a tenor) entered into an agreement with the defendant, Frederick Gye. The terms of that agreement were that Bettini would not perform within 50 miles of London in any venue, apart from the Royal Italian Opera Covent Garden within the time period of 1 January 1875 to 1 December 1875. Further, between 30 March 1875 and 13 July 1875, Bettini would perform for Gye in return for £150 per month. The agreement also stipulated that Bettini must be in London 6 days before rehearsals “without fail”. Bettini however arrived two days before his performance period was to begin. Gye however declined to have him perform at his opera.

Issues

The issue in the case was whether the requirement to be in London “without fail” 6 days before the start of rehearsals was a condition of the contract and therefore, whether Gye could rescind the contract on the basis of the breach of that term.

Held

Blackburn J held that this requirement did not amount to a condition, but was instead a warranty which meant that Gye could not terminate the contract on that basis. A breach of this warranty is not a repudiation of the contract, and Gye would only have an action in damages.

In order for to determine whether the contract was repudiated, the court needed to ask whether what was breached was a term.

“going to the root of the matter, so that a failure to perform it would render the performance of the rest of the contract by the plaintiff a thing different from what the defendant has stipulated for.” (Blackburn J)


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