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Fiege v. Boehme

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Boehme (Plaintiff), brought a claim against the Defendant, Fiege (Defendant), for his breach of a contract to pay for expenses as a result of the birth of his bastard child and to provide for its support upon the condition that Plaintiff would not bring a bastardy charge.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Forbearance to assert an invalid claim, by one who does not have an honest belief in the claim’s validity, is not sufficient consideration for the contract.

    Facts. A suit was brought by the Plaintiff against the Defendant to recover for breach of a contract to pay expenses incident to the birth of Defendant’s bastard child and to provide for its support upon condition that Plaintif would refrain from prosecuting Defendant for bastardy. In January of 1951, around midnight Plaintiff and Defendant procreated. Defendant contends he never had sex with Plaintiff. In September of 1951 the child was born and payments began. Defendant was supposed to pay the medical expenses and loss of salary because of childbirth and $10 per week until the child reached the age of 21. From September of 1951 to May of 1953 the payments totaled around $480. In May of 1953, the Defendant took a blood test showing that he could not have fathered the child. He stops payment. Plaintiff filed bastardy charges. In September of 1953 the bastardy charges proceedings begin. The criminal case is settled one month later in October of 1953. The Defendant claims the contract
    is unenforceable because the forbearance to bring a bastardly suit is based on an invalid claim and the contract is without consideration.

    Issue. Does a contract by a putative father to support an illegitimate child in order to avoid a bastardy charge have sufficient consideration?

    Held. Yes. Forbearance on the part of the Plaintiff to not bring a bastardy suit is valid consideration to enforce the contract.
    If the mother of the bastard child knows there is no foundation, in law or fact, for a bastardy claim, then there is no valid consideration and the contract is not enforceable. However, the promise of a man to pay the mother to avoid embarrassment of a bastardy charge, where the child ends up not being the biological offspring of the father, is valid consideration.

    Discussion. The court likens consideration to a bone fide claim and a reasonable basis for support. If there is a reasonable basis then there is a bargained for exchange between the two parties and valid consideration.


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