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Law School Case Brief

Kidd v. Thomas A. Edison, Inc. - 239 F. 405 (S.D.N.Y. 1917)


It makes no difference that the agent may be disregarding his principal's directions, secret or otherwise, so long as he continues in that larger field measured by the general scope of the business intrusted to his care.


The action was in contract, and depended upon the authority of a certain fellow named Fuller to make a contract with plaintiff singer, engaging her without condition to sing for the defendant company in a series of “tone test” recitals, designed to show the accuracy with which her voice was reproduced by defendant’s records. The defendant contended that Fuller’s only authority was to engage to the plaintiff for such recitals as he could later persuade dealers in the records to book her for all over the United States. The dealers, the defendant said, were to agree to pay for her for the recitals, and the defendant would then guarantee her the dealer’s performance. The plaintiff said the contract was an unconditional engagement for a singing tour, which the jury so found.


Did Fuller have authority to unconditionally hire plaintiff?




The court concluded that the customary implication of the agent's authority would have been that his authority was without limitation of the kind imposed by the principle. The mere fact that the purpose of the recitals was advertisement, instead of entrance fees, gave no intimation to a singer dealing with the agent that the principle's promise was conditional upon so unusual a condition as that actually imposed. The natural surmise was that the undertaking was a part of the advertising expenses of the business, and that therefore the agent might engage singers upon similar terms to those upon which singers for recitals were generally engaged. The court held that once a third person assured himself of the agent's mandate, the very purpose of the agency relationship demanded the possibility of the principal's being bound through the agent's minor deviations.

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