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Beswick v Beswick [1968] AC 58

Contract law – Privity of contract – Specific performance

Facts

PB was in poor health and agreed with the defendant, his nephew, that he would transfer the trade and good will of his coal business to him on the basis that the nephew employed him as a consultant for the rest of his life and paid him for this. The nephew also agreed to pay PBs wife after PB died for the rest of her life. She was not a party to the agreement. Upon the death of PB, the nephew paid PB’s wife once but then not again. PBs widow brought an action as administrator of PB’s estate and also in her personal capacity claiming for specific performance.

Issue

PB’s widow raised two interesting questions for the court to consider. The first was whether the widow, as an administrator to PB’s estate, could claim for an order of specific performance for PB’s nephew to honour his agreement. It was also important to see how the court weighed this claim alongside her claim on a personal level, which that she could claim as a party to the contract between her late husband and nephew.

Held

The court granted the widow an order of specific performance for the payment owed by PB’s nephew as an administrator to her husband’s estate. The court held that the damages would also not be limited due to the loss that had been caused to PB’s estate. However, the court found that PB’s widow could not claim under her personal capacity as she was a third party to the contract and was not a party to the original agreement.


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