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Mills v. Wyman

Citation. 427 F.3d 881
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff gratuitously accepted into her home and cared for Defendant’s son, who was sick, jobless and homeless and away from his parents. Defendant wrote a letter promising to pay Plaintiff’s expenses for such help.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A verbal promise, without any consideration, cannot be enforced even if refusal may be disgraceful.


Plaintiff took in Defendant’s sick son. When the son died, the Defendant father wrote a letter promising to pay expenses for Plaintiff’s care. The father was not legally obligated to care for his son anymore, because the son was 25 years old. The Defendant failed to pay the expenses expressed in the letter.


Can a moral obligation create a binding promise?


No. Affirmed.
No legal consideration for Defendant’s promise was given. The services given to the son were not bargained for and moral obligations are not legally enforceable. Because it was a gift the agreement lacked consideration.
“There must have been some preexisting obligation, which has become inoperative by positive law, to form a basis for an effective promise.”


The court requires a pre-existing obligation to enforce a promise. The court defers the conscience of a person to fulfill his own moral obligations and does not inject the law into the human behavior.

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