Stilk v Myrick (1809)2 Camp 317
Myrick(Defendant) entered in to contract with 11 crew man including Stilk. Stilk was contracted to work on a ship for £5 a month, promising to do anything needed in the voyage in case of emergencies. After the ship docked at Cronstadt two men abandoned the ship and after failing to find replacements the captain promised the crew the wages of those two men divided between them if they fulfilled the duties of the missing crewmen as well as their own and sail the ship to London. After arriving at their home port the captain refused to pay the crew the money he had promised to them
Was there legally sufficient consideration of this agreement to allow the sailors to get extra promised money
A contract has six important elements to be valid contract which is offer, acceptance, consideration, intention to create legal relation, certainty and capacity. If any of the element is missing in contract, it would be an invalid contract. For a valid consideration there is offer and acceptance.
The court held that the original contract bound Stilk to perform any and all duties on board the ship, including performing the additional work of deserted crewmen, which according to the court, was “to be considered an emergency of the voyage as much as [crewmen’s] death” and thus did not constitute sufficient consideration. In other words, the crewmen did not perform anything new that they had not already agreed to do under their original agreement before the voyage, so there was no real ‘extra’ work done in exchange for the higher wages. They had already agreed to do all they could in an event of an emergency.
Performance of a pre-existing duty is not legally sufficient consideration.The decision was also based on the fact that it is against public policy should prevent the crewmen from demanding extra money for same work which they were obligated to do under contract.
Current Day Significance
It was based on the fact that the decision should not become the precedent for claiming extra money by blackmailing in emergency situations. Even it was criticised by many because the extra payment which was offered by Myrick ,not demanded by crewmen. The payment of those abandoned crewmen was the extra benefit to Myrick and that benefit was because of extra hardwork of remaining crewmen. This was offered on port not in mid of sea this also doesn’t amount to emergency. This case provides ground for constituents of valid consideration.