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Lampleigh v Braithwaite (1615) Hob 105

When past consideration may be good consideration.

Facts:

The defendant, Braithwaite, killed a man. He asked the plaintiff, Lampleigh to secure him a pardon from the king. The plaintiff spent many days doing this, riding and journeying at his own cost across the country to where the King was and back again. Afterwards, the defendant promised to pay the plaintiff £100 in gratitude. He later failed to pay the money. The plaintiff sued.

Issues:

The defendant argued that the plaintiff had acted before any promise to pay was given by the defendant. Therefore, he had only provided past consideration for a promise given in the future. The court considered whether this past consideration was sufficient to create a valid contract.

 Held:

The court found in favour of the plaintiff. The promise was indeed given after the plaintiff had acted. However, the plaintiff had acted upon a request made by the defendant. The court considered that the original request by the defendant contained an implied promise to pay the plaintiff for his efforts. Bowen LJ said:

‘A mere voluntary courtesie will not have a consideration to uphold an assumpsit. But if that courtiesie were moved by a suit or request of the party that gives the assumpsit, it will bind’.

Consequently, the court held that if A does something for B at their request and afterward B promises to pay A for their trouble, then that promise is good consideration. The later promise was considered to be part of the same single transaction and was, therefore, enforceable.


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