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Hamer v. Sidway

Citation. 22 Ill.36 N.Y. St. Rptr. 888, 124 N.Y. 538, 27 N.E. 256 (1891)
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Brief Fact Summary.

William E. Story, Sr. (hereinafter Uncle) promised to give William E. Story, 2d (hereinafter Nephew) $5,000 if he refrained from certain behavior prior to reaching the age of twenty-one. Plaintiff, an assignee of Nephew, has brought this claim against Defendant, executor of Uncle, to enforce the promise made by Uncle.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Refraining from behavior one has a legal right to engage in may be sufficient consideration to make an agreement enforceable.


At the celebration of the anniversary of Nephews parents and in the presence of family and guests, Uncle promised to give Nephew $5,000 if Nephew did not drink, use tobacco, swear, or play cards or billiard for money before reaching the age of twenty-one. Upon reaching the age of twenty-one, Nephew wrote Uncle to inform him that he had met all of the conditions necessary to receive the $5,000. Uncle wrote Nephew confirming that the money was his, but indicated that Uncle would hold on to it until he thought Nephew was capable of having it. Uncle died prior to transferring any of the $5,000 to Nephew.


Can Plaintiff recover the $5,000 from Defendant?


Yes. Because Nephew refrained from behavior he had a legal right to engage in, sufficient consideration existed to make Uncle’s promise enforceable.
Defendant argued that the agreement should not be enforced because it lacked consideration. Defendant’s argument is that Nephew benefited from refraining from the behavior while Uncle did not benefit, therefore because there was no detriment to Nephew and no benefit to Uncle there could be no consideration.
The Court disagreed with Defendant. Because Nephew refrained from behavior he had a legal right to engage in, the Court found sufficient detriment to Nephew. In addition, the Court disagrees with Defendant’s assumption that Uncle in no way benefited from Nephew performing the conditions imposed by Uncle’s promise.


In the present case, Nephew met the conditions of Uncle’s promise by refraining from behavior he had a legal right to engage in. Meeting Uncle’s conditions supplied sufficient consideration to make the agreement enforceable.

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