Supreme Court of Arkansas

From the Clark Circuit Court

Reported 1844

                              Robert McDonald                                
                               Jesse Simpson                                 
Where a person represents himself as a workman that very representative      
raises an implied covenant that he will use his best skill in the work which 
he is employed to do. It is not necessary that he should covenant expressly  
to use such skill.                                                           
If a person holds himself out to the world as a workman, the law binds him   
to do his work in a workman like, ie. a skillful manner.                     
This was action of assumpsit, determined in the Clark Circuit Court in       
October, 1841, before the Hon. William Conway B., one of the Circuit Judges. 
It is the same case, which is reported as Simpson vs. McDonald, 2 Ark. 370,  
in which case the bill of exceptions having, by mistake, stated that the     
plaintiff, instead of the defendant, had employed other mill-wrights to      
rebuild the mill, the judgement was reversed and a new trial awarded.        
(Jesse) Simpson sued (Robert) McDonald for compensation for labor done for   
him. He proved that he worked for him for a considerable time in building a  
mill. (Robert) McDonald in defense, proved that the mill when built was      
valueless, and that he, himself, had to rebuild it almost entirely. The jury 
found for (Jesse) Simpson $200 and (Robert) McDonald appealed. Only two      
questions were presented to this court. On the trial the court refused to    
allow (Robert) McDonald to ask a witness, who was not a mechanic, what was   
the value of the mills, as mills, and instructed the jury, "that if they     
believe from the evidence that the plaintiff (Jesse Simpson) told (the)      
defendant (Robert McDonald) that he was skillful, and that the plaintiff     
(Jesse Simpson) did not engage to use his skill for (the) defendant (Robert  
McDonald), that the defendant would be bound to pay him the worth of his     

                  Trapnell, Cocke & Pike, for appellant.                     
                             Trimble, contra.                                
                               By the court.                                 
J. Dickinson. There is a good deal of contrariety in the testimony and not a 
little ambiguity in many portions of it. There are several instructions      
given by the court, to which no exception can be taken. There is one,        
however, where the law is stated too broadly, and as there is much confusion 
and contradiction in the testimony, the court cannot determine what          
influence or effect the instruction might have had in determining the jury   
to decide for the plaintiff (Jesse Simpson). The instruction is, that if     
they believed, from the evidence, that the plaintiff (Jesse Simpson)         
represented himself as a skillful workman, but did not covenant to use his   
skill, that the defendant (Robert McDonald) would be bound to pay him the    
worth of his labor. This is not the true doctrine upon the point. Where a    
party represents himself as a workman, that very representation raises an    
implied covenant to use his skill in the work which he is employed to do. It 
is not necessary that he should covenant, expressly, to use such skill. When 
he holds himself out to the world that he is a workman, the law binds him to 
do the work in a workmanlike manner, and that expression is tantamount that  
it shall be done in a skillful manner. Any other rule would produce great    
injustice and hardship. It would enable those who profess to be mechanics to 
engage to do work as such mechanics, and then, wholly to excuse themselves   
on a failure or breach of contract by alleging that they had not covenanted  
to do it in a skilful manner. Judgement reversed.                            
Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Law & Equity  
of the State of Arkansas, Volume 4, Little Rock: Woodruff Printing Company,  
Reprint 1888.                                                                
David Kelley 1997