Alaska Packers’ Association v. Domenico – Case Brief Summary
Alaska Packers’ Association v. Domenico, 117 F. 99 (9th. Cir. 1902).
Alaska Packers’ Association (D) hired Domenico (P) for the salmon season and agreed to pay $50 dollars plus 2 cents for each salmon caught. After arriving at the location and beginning to work the workers demanded $100. Due to the remote location and brief duration of the salmon season, the company representative was compelled to agree to the terms.
At the end of the salmon season Alaska Packers’ refused to pay more than the wage under the original contract.
Domenico brought suit to recover the additional $50. He testified that the nets were defective, impairing his ability to maximize payment based on the number of salmon caught. The court found however that the evidence did not support Domenico’s claim regarding the nets and entered judgment for Alaska Packers’. Domenico appealed.
- Is a promise to pay more for doing what the other party had already contracted to do enforceable?
- Is a contract modification enforceable without new consideration?
Holding and Rule
- No. A promise to pay more for doing what the other party had already contracted to do is not enforceable.
- No. A contract modification is not enforceable without new consideration.
Preexisting Duty Rule
An agreement modifying a contract is not supported by consideration if one of the parties to the agreement does or promises to do something that he is legally obligated to do or refrains or promises to refrain from doing something he is not legally privileged to do.
A party cannot demand additional compensation for what he has already obligated himself to do. The real question is a question of law. Domenico agreed in writing to render services to the plaintiff for a stated compensation. Domenico demanded extra pay in remote waters where the fishing season is very short and where it would be impossible to find other workers. Consent by the defendant under such circumstances is not valid consideration.
A party to a contract who refuses to perform, and coerces a promise from the other party to pay additional compensation for doing that which he is legally bound to do, takes an unjustifiable advantage of the necessities of the other party.
See Stilk v. Myrick for a contracts case brief in which the court held that a promise to give crewmen a share of the pay of two deserters was invalid for lack of new consideration.