• In the case of Lumley v Wagner 1852 EWHC Ch j96, it was held that the courts can enforce a negative obligation under a contract but not enforce a specific performance action to sing.

Facts of the Case

  • The defendant (D) was hired by the claimant (C) to exclusively sing at his theatre and no other.
  • D contracted to sing for a rival theatre that offered her more money.
  • As a result of the breach of contract, C sought an injunction to prevent D form going ahead and breaching the contract.

Issues in Lumley v Wagner 1852 EWHC Ch j96

  • Can the injunction be successfully applied for and have the effect of stopping D from performing at any other theatre other than C’s?

Held by Court of Chancery

  • Injunction granted.

Lord St Leonards LC

  • Here it was discussed that D could not be compelled to sing by specific performance at Cs theatre but can be prohibited from singing elsewhere.
  • “The jurisdiction which I now exercise is wholly within the power of the Court, and being of opinion that it is a proper case for interfering, I shall leave nothing unsatisfied by the judgment I pronounce. The effect, too, of the injunction in restraining J. Wagner from singing elsewhere may, in the event of an action being brought against her by the Plaintiff, prevent any such amount of vindictive damages being given against her as a jury might probably be inclined to give if she had carried her talents and exercised them at the rival theatre: the injunction may also, as I have said, tend to the fulfilment of her engagement; though, in continuing the injunction, I disclaim doing indirectly what I cannot do directly” pg. 693