Hawkins v. McGee (1929)

IRAC Summary of Hawkins v. McGee

Issue: The issue in Hawkins v. McGee is whether the defendant, a surgeon, breached his contract with the plaintiff by guaranteeing a certain result from a skin graft operation and not achieving the promised outcome.

Rule: In contract law, when one party promises a specific outcome to another party, a contract for that result is formed. When the promised result is not achieved due to the promisor’s actions or inactions, the promisor may be in breach of contract. The measure of damages is the difference between the value of the promised result and the actual outcome.

Application: McGee, a surgeon, promised Hawkins, his patient, a “100% perfect hand” or a “hundred percent good hand” through a skin graft operation. The operation involved grafting skin from Hawkins’ chest to his hand, which had been severely burned and scarred. However, after the surgery, Hawkins’ hand did not improve as promised and instead became covered in dense hair, causing discomfort and emotional distress. The application of the rule required determining whether a contract was formed based on McGee’s promise and whether the failure to achieve a perfect hand constituted a breach of that contract.

Conclusion: The court concluded that McGee breached the contract by failing to provide the 100% perfect hand as he guaranteed. Hawkins was entitled to damages measured by the difference between the value of a perfect hand, as promised, and the condition of Hawkins’ hand following the surgery.

Detailed IRAC Outline of Hawkins v. McGee

– The central issue is whether McGee’s promise of a perfect hand through surgery constituted a contract and, if so, whether McGee breached this contract by not delivering the promised result.

– A contract is formed when there is an offer, acceptance, consideration, and mutual intent to be bound.
– A breach of contract occurs when one party fails to fulfill their contractual promises.
– In cases of a breach of contract, the non-breaching party is entitled to damages that put them in the position they would have been in had the contract been performed as promised.

– Offer: McGee offered to perform surgery to give Hawkins a perfect hand.
– Acceptance: Hawkins accepted by allowing McGee to perform the surgery.
– Consideration: The consideration was the mutual exchange of promises – the surgery for the expected perfect hand.
– Mutual Intent: Both parties intended to enter a contract, as evidenced by McGee’s guarantee and Hawkins’ agreement to the surgery.
– Breach: McGee promised a 100% perfect hand, but the surgery resulted in a hairy, less functional hand.
– Damages: The difference in value between the hand as promised (perfect) and the hand as it was after surgery must be assessed to determine Hawkins’ damages.

– The court must conclude McGee breached the contract. The measure of damages would be the difference in value between the perfect hand promised and the condition of Hawkins’ hand after the surgery, rather than the value of the hand before any surgery.

Discussion of the Case:
– The court would examine the correspondence and interactions between McGee and Hawkins to substantiate the formation of a contract.
– Expert testimony might be required to establish what a “100% perfect hand” would have been worth versus the value of Hawkins’ hand after the surgery.
– The court would also consider whether McGee’s guarantee was a mere expression of opinion or a statement of fact upon which Hawkins relied in deciding to undergo surgery.
– The emotional distress and physical discomfort caused by the failed surgery could be relevant to the question of damages.
– The court would have to determine whether specific performance could be a remedy, although unlikely due to the personal and medical nature of the case.
– The case would set a precedent for understanding the enforceability of guarantees by professionals and the extent of reliance on such guarantees by individuals seeking services.

Discover more from Legal Three

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading