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   Case summaries      Lumley v Wagner


Lumley v Wagner (1852) 42 ER 687 High Court of Chancery

The defendant Johanna Wagner, an opera singer, was engaged by the claimant to perform in his theatre for a period of three months. There was a term in the contract preventing her from singing for anyone else for the duration of the contract. She was then approached by the manager of Covent Garden Theatre, Frederick Gye, who offered her more money to sing for him. The claimant sought an injunction preventing her from singing at Covent Garden Theatre. The defendant argued that to allow an injunction would in effect amount to specific performance of the contract in circumstances where specific performance would not be available.


The injunction was granted despite it having the effect of forcing the defendant to sing for the claimant.

Lord St Leonards LC

“Wherever this Court has not proper jurisdiction to enforce specific performance, it operates to bind men's consciences, as far as they can be bound, to a true and literal performance of their agreements; and it will not suffer them to depart from their contracts at their pleasure, leaving the party with whom they have contracted to the mere chance of any damages which a jury may give.”
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