Warren v Mendy [1989]

Warren v Mendy [1989] 1 WLR 853 is an English contract law case that dealt with the issue of granting an injunction in the context of a personal service contract.

Warren, the claimant, had entered into a contract with the boxer, whereby Warren was to act as the boxer's exclusive manager and promoter. However, in breach of this contract, the boxer entered into an agreement with another promoter, Mendy. Seeking to prevent Mendy from inducing the boxer to breach his contract, Warren sought an injunction.

In the judgment delivered by Nourse LJ in the Court of Appeal, Lumley v Wagner [1852] was distinguished. The key distinction highlighted was the duration of the contract period. In Lumley v Wagner, the court granted an injunction when there were only two months left in the three-month contract, limiting the time Wagner had to remain idle. General principles were then laid down regarding the court's approach to personal service contracts.

The court stated that it should not enforce the performance of negative obligations in a contract for personal services, especially those inseparable from the exercise of special skill or talent, if the injunction would effectively compel the servant to perform positive obligations. The likelihood of compulsion was to be considered based on factors such as the servant's physical, psychological, and material needs, the term of the injunction, and the presence of mutual obligations of trust and confidence.

Applying these principles to the present case, the court found that the factors against granting an injunction were met. Boxing was deemed a highly specialist trade with a short professional life for the boxer. The suggestion that the boxer could find alternative work was rejected due to his acquired specialist skills. The high degree of trust and confidence required between the boxer and manager had eroded, and it was likely that Warren would seek an injunction against any other manager the boxer approached.

It is worth noting that the result depends on the nature of the personal service contract involved. In cases where the work is highly specialist, limiting the servant's ability to engage in alternative lines of work, an injunction may be more likely. Conversely, in contracts for less specialist work, the expectation may be that the servant can reasonably find alternative employment.
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