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De Cicco v. Schweizer - 221 N.Y. 431, 117 N.E. 807 (1917)

Rule:

It will not do to divert the minds of others from a given line of conduct, and then to urge that because of the diversion the opportunity has gone by to say how their minds would otherwise have acted. If the tendency of the promise is to induce them to persevere, reliance and detriment may be inferred from the mere fact of performance. The springs of conduct are subtle and varied. One who meddles with them must not insist upon too nice a measure of proof that the spring which he released was effective to the exclusion of all others.

Facts:

On January 16, 1902, "articles of agreement" were executed by the defendant Joseph Schweizer, his wife Ernestine, and Count Oberto Gulinelli. The agreement was in Italian. "Whereas, Miss Blanche Josephine Schweizer, daughter  of said Mr. Joseph Schweizer and of said Mrs. Ernestine Teresa Schweizer, is now affianced to and is to be married to the above said Count Oberto Giacomo Giovanni Francesco Maria Gulinelli, Now, in consideration of all that is herein set forth the said Mr. Joseph Schweizer promises and expressly agrees by the present contract to pay annually to his said daughter Blanche, during his own life and to send her, during her lifetime, the sum of Two Thousand Five Hundred dollars, or the equivalent of said sum in Francs, the first payment of said amount to be made on the 20th day of January, 1902." The defendant made the first payment to his daughter. He continued the payments annually till 1912. This action is brought to recover the installment of that year.

Issue:

Was there a valid contract in defendant’s promise that he would pay an annuity of $2500.00 (or its equivalent in francs) to his daughter if she would marry a certain person?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The judgment in favor of plaintiff requiring defendant to pay the annuity was affirmed. Defendant, by promising an annuity to be paid to his daughter upon her marriage, induced plaintiff husband and his daughter to marry. Plaintiff's marriage to defendant's daughter was sufficient consideration despite the fact the plaintiff was already engaged to defendant's daughter at the time the promised annuity was made. Although the promise was to the husband it was intended for the benefit of the daughter, when it came to her knowledge she had a right to adopt and enforce it, and in doing so she made herself a party to the contract. Defendant was obligated to continuing paying the annuity.

 

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