White and Bluett – 1853

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White v Bluett (1853) 23 LJ Ex 36

What amounts to forbearance in order to qualify for consideration.


The defendant was sued by his deceased father’s executors on a promissory note acknowledging a debt owed by the son which was signed by the plaintiff before he died.


The son argued that before his father died he and his father had agreed that the father would not enforce the promissory note if the son stopped complaining about the father’s distribution of his property among his children. He also stated that he had just grounds to complain about the way his father had divided up his property.  He, therefore, argued that his father had waived his right to pursue him for the debt.


The court of the Exchequer Chamber held that the agreement between the father and the son was not enforceable as it was not supported by good consideration. The son had no right to complain about the way his father distributed his own property. Therefore, the son had provide no consideration as there was no forbearance of anything he had a right to do on his part.  Pollock CB said (at 37):

‘The son had no right to complain, for the father might make what distribution of his property he liked; and the son’s abstaining from what he had no right to do can be no consideration’.

The court also held that the agreement was no more than a promise not to bore his father and was, therefore, too vague to amount to consideration. Therefore, the executors could enforce the note against the defendant.

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