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Lingenfelder v. Wainwright Brewery Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff’s successor-in-interest sued Defendant to recover five percent on the cost of ice machines that Defendant promised Plaintiff if Plaintiff would resume construction of Defendant’s brewery.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When a party does what he has already obligated himself to do, he cannot demand any additional compensation by taking advantage of the necessities of the other party.

    Facts.

    Jungenfeld (Plaintiff), an architect, entered into a contract with Wainwright Brewery Co. (Defendant) to design and supervise the construction of a brewery. Plaintiff also owned a refrigeration company, and when Defendant announced that it had awarded the refrigeration contract to a competing company, Plaintiff refused to perform the work under the contract. Defendant, which was under pressure to complete the construction soon, promised Plaintiff five percent on the cost of the ice machines if he would resume work. Plaintiff accepted. Lingenfelder, Plaintiff’s successor-in-interest, brought suit to recover the unpaid five percent.

    Issue.

    Whether a party to a contract can demand additional compensation to complete performance.

    Held.

    No. Plaintiff is not entitled to five percent. When a party does what he has already obligated himself to do, he cannot demand any additional compensation by taking advantage of the necessities of the other party.

    Discussion.

    Defendant's promise to pay Plaintiff this sum was intended to induce him to complete his original contract under its original terms. This was not a new contract. Plaintiff was bound by his contract to design and supervise the construction of the building. Under the new promise he was not to do anything additional or different. Plaintiff took advantage of Defendant's necessities and extorted the promise of additional compensation. An additional promise to pay for doing that which is already required under the contract lacks consideration. When a party does what he has already obligated himself to do, he cannot demand any additional compensation by taking advantage of the necessities of the other party.


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