Stilk v. Myrick

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Stilk v. Myrick
Court Court of Common Pleas
Date decided 1809-1-1


Stilk (plaintiff) took a job on a ship traveling from London, England, through the Baltic Sea to St. Petersburg, Russia & back. The contract required him to be paid £ 5 /month (5 British pounds per month).

2 sailors ditched their ship in St. Petersburg, Russia. The British captain promised their wages to the remaining crew members.

Stilk & the other 8 crew members brought the ship back to London. Upon arriving home, the captain refused to pay the extra wages of the 2 deserting sailors to the remaining sailors.

Procedural History

Stilk sued in the High Court of Justice, King's Bench Division.


Can a contract for services be modified without additional consideration?


Myrick's side: The captain's attorney argued that the contract was contrary to public policy & thus void. Sailing crews are commonly thinned out by death or desertion. This outcome was anticipated by the captain. Furthermore, allowing extra wages for the remaining crews would result in exorbitant demands.


No. A contract for services can't be modified without additional consideration.


The judge rejected the extra labor of the remaining crew members as consideration.


Pre-existing duty rule