Webb v. McGowin – (moral obligation)
History: Appeal from Circuit Court, Butler County; A. E. Gamble, Judge.
- Webb was injured as he fell with a 70 lb. block to divert it from hitting McGowin.
- McGowin promised to pay Webb money every 2 weeks for the rest of Webb’s life.
- McGowin paid Webb for 8 years.
- McGowin died.
- McGowin’s Executor refused to pay Webb.
- Webb sued.
Issue: Is a moral obligation to pay valid consideration?
Reasoning: Yes if it would be paid by most people and enforcement would be just.
Analysis: Most people would pay Webb because Webb saved McGowin’s life and the Courts would enforce because they would be helping a man who was permanently injured saving another’s life which created the moral obligation which was the binding consideration in the first place.
Conclusion: Yes, moral obligation to pay is valid consideration.
————–bullet point extraction of pertinent facts, timeline, issues and arguments.———
- Appeal from Circuit Court, Butler County; A. E. Gamble, Judge.
- Action by Joe Webb against N. Floyd McGowin and Joseph F. McGowin, as executors of the estate of J. Greeley McGowin, in, deceased. From a judgment of nonsuit, plaintiff appeals.
- Reversed and remanded.
- Certiorari denied by Supreme Court in . Webb v. McGowin, 232 Ala. 374, 168 So. 199.
- Powell & Hamilton, of Greenville, for appellant.
- Calvin Poole, of Greenville, for appellee.
- Appellant’s Argument:
- appellant: A moral obligation can be the consideration making a promise to pay the enforceable consideration in a bargain where the promisor has in fact received a material benefit &/or monetary/pecuniary benefit even when there was no duty or liability when the act creating the moral obligation was performed.
- appellant: It is implied that there was a request for part services when there is a promise to pay for part services and these services form the consideration making the promise enforceable.
- appellant: The agreement sued on is not within the statute of frauds. cites 25 R.C.L. 456, 457, 470.
- Appellee’s Argument:
- Calvin Poole, of Greenville, for appellee. Past consideration creates no legal liability. It does not support a subsequent promise. Promisor must make a special request for the beneficial service rendered to be binding on the promisor. There must be a privity.
- A promise to pay for services is not implied unless the circumstances under which the services were rendered gave rise to a a presumption that they were to be in exchange for a promise in a way that would cause a reasonable person in the same situation to believe it to be so.
- A moral obligation on it’s own does not support an express promise. Valid consideration must have existed and have created a legal duty.
- A promise to pay must be the bargained for exchange for legal consideration only.
Lat He undertook; he promised. A promise or engagement by which one person assumes or undertakes to do some act or pay something to another. It may be either oral or in writing, but is not under seal. It is express if the promisor puts his engagement in distinct and definite language; it is implied where the law infers a promise (though no formal one has passed) from the conduct of the party or the circumstances of the case. In practice. A form of action which lies for the recovery of damages for the non-performance of a parol or simple contract; or a contract that is neither of record nor under seal. 7 Term, 351; Ballard v. Walker, 3 Johns. Cas. (N. Y.) 60. The ordinary division of this action is into (1) common or indebitatus assumpsit, brought for the most part on an implied promise; and (2) special assumpsit, founded on an express promise. Steph. PI. 11, 13. The action of assumpsit differs from trespass and trover, which are founded on a tort, not upon a contract; from covenant and debt, which are appropriate where the ground of recovery is a sealed instrument, or special obligation to pay a fixed sum; and from replevin, which seeks the recovery of specific property, if attainable, rather than of damages.
- BRICKEN, Presiding Judge.
- This action is in assumpsit.
- Complaint amended.
- Demurrers to amended complaint sustained.
- Because of this adverse ruling, the plaintiff took a nonsuit.
- The assignment of errors on this appeal are predicated upon said action or ruling of the court.
- The action was for the unpaid installments accruing after January 27, 1934, to the time of the suit.
- The arguments behind the demurrer to both the original and amended complaint are:
- (1) Complaint had no stated cause of action.
- (2) There was no consideration for the contract.
- (3) Complaint does not allege that McGowin had, at a time prior to the services being rendered, agreed to pay for them.
- (4) The “contract” is void under the statute of frauds for want of a writing.
- Where the promisee improves the situation of the promisor, without a request being made, there is sufficient consideration for the promisor’s subsequent agreement to pay for the service, because of benefit received.
- It is a settled law principle that moral obligation is consideration to support an enforcement of a subsequent promise where the promisor has received a benefit even though there was not a duty originally.
- The facts of the case are that by saving McGowin from death or great bodily harm, the appellant was crippled for life. This was the consideration. MeGowin benefited. Appellant was injured. Benefit to the promisor or injury to the promisee is a sufficient legal consideration for the promissor’s agreement to pay. Fisher v. Bartlett, 8 Greenl. (Me.) 122, 22 Am.Dec. 225; State ex reI. Bayer v. Funk, supra.
- The services rendered by appellant were not free as evidenced by the subsequent promise to pay and the acceptance for a number of years of the paymets.
- The contract declared on was not void under the statute of frauds (Code 1923, § 8034). The demurrer on this ground was not well taken. 25 R.C.L. 456, 457 and 470, § 49. .
- Reversed and remanded.
- SAMFORD, Judge (concurring).
- It would be unjust to not enforce this contract.