Citation. 27 Ala.App. 82, 168 So. 196, cert.denied 232 Ala. 374, 168 So. 199 (1936)
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Brief Fact Summary.
P brings suit against D for payments that D promised to P after P suffered serious bodily harm in preventing a block from falling on D.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A moral obligation is a sufficient consideration to support a subsequent promise to pay where the promisor has received a material benefit.
Webb (P), acting within the scope of his employment, was engaged in clearing the upper floor of a mill. P was in the act of dropping a 75-pound block to the ground below when he saw McGowin directly underneath the block. If P had dropped the block, McGowin would have suffered serious bodily harm or death. P could have remained safe on the upper floor of the mill by dropping the block. However, the only way to prevent the block from hitting McGowin was for P to fall with the block and divert its direction. P fell with the block and diverted its direction in such a way the McGowin was not injured. In doing so, P suffered seriously bodily injuries. P was badly crippled for life and unable to do physical or mental labor. McGowin promised to pay P $15 every two weeks for the rest of P's life. McGowin followed through with the payments until his death eight years later. After McGowin's death the payments stopped. P sued McGowin’s estate (D). D obtained a nonsuit. P appealed.
If a promisee cares for, improves, and preserves the property of the promisor, though done without his request, is it a sufficient consideration for the promisor's subsequent agreement to pay for the service because of the material benefit received?
Yes. Case is reversed and remanded.
• Life and preservation of the body have material, pecuniary values, measurable in dollars and cents.
• A moral obligation is a sufficient consideration to support a subsequent promise to pay where the promisor has received a material benefit, although there was no original duty or liability resting on the promisor.
• Here the court distinguishes this case from other cases where the consideration is a mere moral obligation. In this case, the court found that the promisor, McGowin, received a material benefit constituting a valid consideration for his promise.
The law should reflect justice.
Generally, past consideration could not be consideration. Here the court makes an exception to the general rule for a type of moral obligation. However, the moral obligation does not fit into the requirement of bargained-for exchange.