Stilk v. Myrick – Case Brief

Stilk v. Myrick, 2 Camp. 317, 170 Eng. Rep. 1168 [1809].

Facts: Stilk (P) was to be paid 5 pounds per month during a voyage at sea. Two seamen deserted and the Captain agreed that the wages of the two deserters would be divided equally among the remaining hands if the two seamen could not be replaced at Gottenburgh. Myrick (D) refused to honor the agreement and Stilk sued.

Issue: May a contract for services be modified without consideration?

Holding and Rule: No. A contract for services may not be modified without consideration.

The court held that under these facts, the seamen who remained with the ship had the obligation to do all that they could under all emergencies during the voyage. They had sold all of their services until the voyage was completed. The agreement would have been proper if the seamen had had the liberty to depart sooner and chose to remain on the voyage longer in exchange for greater compensation.

The court held that a desertion is considered to be an emergency the same as a death among the crew. The court found in favor of D on the grounds that there were not changed circumstances sufficient to compel a change in the contract.

Disposition: For D; P’s recovery limited to 5 pounds per month.


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