Poussard v Spiers (1875) LR 1 QBD 410

Breach of condition of a contract


The Claimant (Poussard) was an opera singer. She was contracted by the defendant to perform in that capacity for a duration of three months. This was to subject to certain conditions, such as a salary of £11 per week, a start of “on or about” the 14th of November and an option to re-engage the Claimant’s services for another three months for a salary not exceeding 14 pounds per week. Instead of the 14th of November however, the launch performance was subsequently scheduled for the 28th of November, to which the Claimant gave no objection. However, she fell ill just before the start of the opera and could not sing for the first three days. The defendant hired another singer as potential cover and then actual cover when the claimant could not sing for the first three days of performances. Once the Claimant was well again, she wanted to take up her position in the performance but this was refused by the Defendant. An action for wrongful dismissal was then launched against the defendant. At trial, the jury found in favour of the defendant and awarded them the right to claim £83 from the Claimant, as it had been reasonable to hire her replacement. The Claimant appealed against this.


The issue in this case was whether failing to turn up to the first day of performance amounted to a breach of a condition of the contract.


It was held that failure to turn up did amount to a breach of a condition of the contract as this went to its very root and that Spiers were therefore free to rescind the contract.