December 04, 2005
Today in History: Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon
On this date, December 4, 1917, the New York Court of Appeals handed down its decision in Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, 222 N.Y. 88 (1917). The opinion by Judge Cardozo is a milestone for several areas of contract law, including consideration, implied terms, and the duty of good faith. And the personality of the defendant, Lady Duff Gordon (the Martha Stewart of her day) hasn't hurt its popularity. Here's an interesting take on the case from Victor Goldberg (Columbia) and and some info and pictures involving Lady Duff Gordon from Jim Fishman (Pace). (Image: Lady Duff Gordon, courtesy Randy Bryan Bigham.)
Not so well-known as Cardozo's innovation, however, is the that the reasoning for which the opinion is famous -- that an exclusive license contains an implied clause that the licensee will use its best efforts -- wasn't Cardozo's idea. That theory, and the key cases that Cardozo cites in the opinion, were provided for him in the brief of the plaintiff's lawyer, John Jerome Rooney (1866-1934).
Rooney was a minor celebrity in his own right. He was born in Broome County, New York. His father, a small merchant in Binghamton, died when John was a child, and the family moved to Philadelphia. He attended Mount Saint Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, graduating in 1884. After service as a Naval officer, he became a lawyer in New York City. A a staunch Democrat, he became a leader of the Catholic bar and a power behind the scenes in city politics. He served as President of the Catholic Club of New York, received considerable attention for his work on behalf of the persecuted Armenians in Turkey, and for his pro-Irish nationalist writing. His political service was later rewarded with a job as Presiding Judge of the New York Court of Claims. His wife was president of the Civic Education League and was active in the battle against narcotics in New York City.
But Rooney is best remembered today not for his legal work, but for his poetry. An ardent patriot, his poems about America's military and the Irish struggle for independence earned him great popularity. He was best known for such works as The Men Behind the Guns, Joined the Blues, and Ave Maria,
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