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Hamer v. Sidway

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

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Hamer v. Sidway

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Brief Fact Summary. P sued D for beach of contract and D contended that the promise was not supported by consideration.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. In general, a waiver of any legal right at the request of another party is sufficient consideration for a promise.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The trial court found as a fact that on the 20th day of March, 1869, William E. Story agreed to and with William E. Story, 2d, that if he would refrain from drinking liquor, using tobacco, swearing, and playing cards or billiards for money until he should become 21 years of age then he, the said William E. Story, would at that time pay him, the said William E. Story, 2d, the sum of $5,000 for such refraining, to which the said William E. Story, 2d, agreed, and that he in all things fully performed his part of said agreement.

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Facts. Story (D) agreed with his nephew William (P) that if P would refrain from drinking, using tobacco, swearing, and playing cards or billiards for money until he became 21, D would pay him $5,000. When P became 21 he wrote a letter to D stating that P had performed his part of the agreement and had earned the $5,000. P and D agreed that $5,000 plus interest should remain with D until P was capable of taking care of it. D died without paying P the $5,000 plus interest. Judgment for D. P appealed.

Issue. Is mere abstention from legal conduct sufficient consideration?

Held. Yes. Judgment reversed.
Valuable consideration may consist either in some right, interest, profit, or benefit accruing to one of the parties or some forbearance, detriment, loss, or responsibility given, suffered, or undertaken by the other party.
Here, the court found that it is sufficient that P restricted his lawful freedom of action within certain prescribed limits upon the faith of D’s agreement. Furthermore, the court found nothing in the record that would permit a determination that D was not benefited in the legal sense.

Discussion. Under the bargain test for consideration, P’s forbearance was arguably both a benefit to D and a detriment to P. D benefited by having his nephew refrain from certain conduct and P suffered a detriment by denying himself the enjoyment of that conduct.

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