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The Hairy Hand Case takes place in Hawkins v. McGee

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Hawkins v. McGee

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Contracts students and fans of The Paper Chase will no doubt be familiar with (and perhaps have nightmares about) the famous case of Hawkins v. McGee, 146 A. 641 (1929), better known as The Hairy Hand Case.

The case involved a young boy named George Hawkins whose hand was badly scarred. A surgeon named Edward R. B. McGee promised that an operation, which entailed the grafting of skin from Hawkins’s chest onto his hand, would leave Hawkins with a 100% good hand. Instead, the operation left Hawkins with, well . . . a hairy hand.

Hawkins sued McGee. In resolving the matter, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire declared that the proper measure of damages for breach of contract in cases like this was the difference between the value of the contract as fully performed and the actual value of what the non-breaching party got, plus any reasonably foreseeable incidental damages.

In other words, Hawkins was entitled to the difference in value between a 100% good hand and a hairy hand.

This case became one of the most widely studied cases on the law of damages for its explanation of the proper calculation of expectation damages.

 

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