ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Valparaiso University Law School

Monday, December 15, 2008

Contracts Limerick of the Week: Clark v. West

William Clark had a great reputation as a prolific legal scholar.  In 1899, he was hired to teach law at Washington & Lee University.  According to Washington & Lee's website, he was fired within weeks and demanded to know the reason for his dismissal.  The President of the university explained that the grounds for dismissal were that Clark was "addicted to drink beyond what would be proper in a college professor." 

West publications nonetheless hired Clark to write a multi-volume treatise.  A bizarre provision in the contract provided that Clark would be entitled to $2/page in any case but $6/page if he were to abstain from drinking so long as he was working on the project.  It is undisputed that Clark was unable to do so, but he did complete the treatise and there is no indication that West was in any way dissatisfied with Clark's work. 

West duly paid Clark $2/page upon the completion of the treatise and Clark sued for full payment. New York's Court of Appeals sided with Clark, ruling that his sobriety was a condition to his entitlement to full payment but that the condition had been waived.

Clark v. West

Was Clark due six dollars a page
For his work as a bibulous sage?
Yes, be West's own volition
It waived the condition
Of temperance for the man it engaged.

[Jeremy Telman]

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