This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
If no time is fixed by the contract for its duration, and the contract from its nature is one which might last indefinitely, either party may at his option terminate such contract.1 Thus a contract of employment as land agent,2 a contract to repair and construct buildings as directed by the adversary party, no particular buildings being designated,3 a contract by retail dealers to buy oil of a wholesale dealer exclusive, without limitation as to time,4 and a contract to manufacture articles for a corporation for an indefinite time in the future,5 may each be discharged at any time at the option of either party as to the part thereof which remains executory. A reasonable notice of the exercise of such option must be given when the absence thereof will inflict injury upon the adversary party which the parties to the original contract did not contemplate, and cannot be understood to have intended. Thus before exercise of a right to terminate a contract of indefinite duration for one railway's using a freight depot and the tracks of another railway company,6 or for the management of a road jointly constructed by the two railway companies,7 reasonable notice must be given. If the parties to a contract for the management of a road jointly owned by both railroad companies cannot agree upon regulations for the operation of such road, the court may make temporary orders to enable both parties to use the road, pending final judgment in a suit for specific performance and injunction.8 A agreed with B to manage B's plantation and stock farm, and as compensation A was to have the products of the farm and one half of the increase of the stock. N0 time for the termination of such contract was fixed. A was allowed to terminate the contract at any time, upon giving due notice and taking possession at the beginning of some designated year.9 Even though no time is fixed for the termination of the contract, the surrounding circumstances may indicate that the parties did not intend to give either party a right to discharge it at his option. A, an employer, took an employee who was seriously injured, to a hospital, and left him there, promising to pay for his care. No provision was made as to the length of time which he was to remain. It was held that this implied an agreement on A's part to pay for such care until at least such time as he could be moved without great danger to his health. Accordingly, where A gave such notice before such time, and it was not shown that the employee had means of his own to pay for such care, such notice does not discharge A's liability to the hospital.10 A contract to drive logs, for the termination of which no time is designated, may appear from the surrounding circumstances to be intended to last until all the timber has been cut off the land of the owner thereof. Such contract cannot be terminated by notice before the timber is exhausted.11
5 Derry v. Board of Education. 102 Mich. 631: 61 N. W. 61.
6 Lord v. Board of Trade. 163 111. 45: 45 X. E. 205.
7 Western, etc.. Co. v. Steel Co.. 116 Fed. 176.
8 Florida Northern Ry. v. Supply Co.. 112 Ga. 1: 37 S. E. 130.
9 Cummer v. Butts, 40 Mich. 322; 29 Am. Rep. 530.
10 Anvil Mining Co. v. Humble. 153 U. S. 540.
1 Chattanooga, etc.. Ry. v. Ry.. 44 Fed. 456; Long v. Kee, 42 La. Ann. 800: 8 So. 610: Savage v. Surgical Association. 59 Mich. 400; 26 N. W. 652.
2 Howard v. Ry.. 91 Ala. 268; 8 So. 868.
3Quin v. Distilling Co., 171 Mass. 283: 50 N. E. 637.
4 Marble v. Oil Co., 169 Mass. 553; 48 N. E. 783.
5 Kenderdine Hydro-Carbon Fuel Co. v. Plumb, 182 Pa. St. 463: 38 Atl. 480.
6Chattanooga, etc., Ry. v. Ry., 44 Fed. 456.
7 Philadelphia, etc., Ry. v. River Front R. R. Co., 168 Pa. St. 357; 31 Atl. 1098.
8 Philadelphia, etc., Ry. v. River Front R. R. Co., 168 Pa. St. 357; 31 Atl. 1098.
9 Long v. Kee, 42 La. Ann. 899; 8 So. 610.
10 St. Barnabas Hospital v. Electric Co., 68 Minn. 254; 40 L. R. A. 388,70 N. W. 1126.
11 Mississippi River Logging Co. v. Robson, 69 Fed. 773; 16 C. C. A. 400; s. c, 43 Fed. 364.