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Brackenbury v. Hodgkin

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Bloomberg Law

Brief Fact Summary.

A mother promised to convey to her daughter and son-in-law her home if they moved in with her and took care of her. 

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A unilateral contract does not require acceptance by words, only performance of an act for the contract to be binding.


The Defendants, were Mrs. Sarah D.P. Hodgkin ("Ms. Hodgkin") and her son Walter Hodgkin ("Mr. Hodgkin") (the "Defendants").  Ms. Hodgkin's was the owner of a certain piece of real property in Maine on February 8, 1915.  The Plaintiffs were one of Ms. Hodgkin's daughters and her daughter's husband (the "Plaintiffs").  Ms Hodgkin's sent a letter to the Plaintiffs on February 8, 1915, promising them her residence in Maine if they moved in with her and cared for her.  In April 1915, the Plaintiffs moved from Missouri (where the were living) to Maine in reliance on Ms. Hodgkin's offer.  A few weeks after the Plaintiffs moved in with Ms. Hodgkin, the parties' relationship began to deteriorate.  Ms. Hodgkin attempted to kick the Plaintiffs out of her residence, but they refused to leave.  On November 7, 1916, Ms. Hodgkin delivered Mr. Hodgkin a deed to her home, reserving a life estate for herself.  Mr. Hodgkin knew about Ms. Hodgkin's agreement with the Plaintiffs.  The purpose of the deed transfer was to evict the Plaintiffs.  The Plaintiffs sued for reconveyance of the property to Ms. Hodgkins.


Is there a valid contract?


Yes.  Ms. Hodgkin's offer was in writing and its terms are indisputable.  The contract was a unilateral one, requiring only an act for performance.  Meaning once the act is performed the contract is binding.  Here, the Plaintiffs by moving to Maine performed the requisite act and continued trying to perform the acts to the extent Ms. Hodgkin's would allow.


This case offers a basic discussion of the difference between unilateral and bilateral contracts.

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