PETTY V. GAYLE, 25 ALABAMA 472 (1854)


If a hired slave failed to work for the full term, payment could not be pro-rated.

Facts of the Case

George Petty hired a slave from George B. Gayle for one month at $15 per month. When Gayle attempted to collect payment, Petty claimed that the slave had not worked for a full month, which apparently was the case. Before the Mobile County Circuit Court, witnesses testified that, locally, a month was calculated at twenty-six working days, whereas Petty claimed that the slave had worked for only twenty-three and three-fourths days. The court also heard testimony that local custom allowed the owner to collect pro-rata. Gayle was awarded $13.83.

Petty's Argument

Before the Alabama Supreme Court, Petty argued that the contract was "entire" and that "no recovery could be had for partial performance."

Gayle's Argument

Gayle argued that Petty should bear the loss for the slave's neglect or refusal to work.

The Court's Decision

Judge George Goldthwaite wrote the decision for the Alabama Supreme Court. He agreed that the contract was "entire." The court could not compel Petty to pay anything. Furthermore, the local custom of pro-rating such contracts was "in opposition to the established rules of law."

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