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De Cicco v. Schweizer

    Brief Fact Summary. A father made a promise to pay his daughter money if her and her husband were married. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A father's promise to pay his daughter money if she marries a certain individual "induce[d] them to persevere, reliance and detriment may be inferred from the mere fact of performance."

    Facts. On January 16, 1902, the Defendant, Joseph Schweizer (the "Defendant"), and his wife, executed "articles of agreement" with the Count Oberto Gulinelli.  In this agreement, the parties agreed that the Defendant's daughter Blanche Josephine Schweizer ("Ms. Schweizer") would marry the Count.  The Defendant agreed to pay Ms. Schweizer $2500 or the equivalent sum in Francs every year they remained married.  The parties were married on January 20, 1902 and Mr. Schweizer made the first payment.  The Defendant made these payments until 1912 and then abruptly stopped making them.  Ms. Schweizer's claim for the payments was assigned to the Plaintiff, DeCiccio (the "Plaintiff"), and he sues because the Defendant stopped making the payments.  The Plaintiff won in the lower court and the Defendant appealed. 

    Issue. Is consideration lacking in the Defendant's promise, due to a pre-existing duty?

    Held. The court first recognizes that the contract, if there is one involved in this matter, is unilateral.  The court also determined "[f]rom all these circumstances, we may infer that at the time of the marriage the promise was known to the bride as well as the husband, and that both acted upon the faith of it."  The court concluded since the parties went through with their marriage, and did not exercise the right to terminate their engagement, the Defendant may not detract his promise.  The court also found a detriment because the parties gave up the right to rescind the contract between them.  In other words since the   "promise [  ] induce[d] them to persevere, reliance and detriment may be inferred from the mere fact of performance."

    Discussion. Marriage contracts in New York State are no longer legal and enforceable.


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