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Law School Case Brief

Maughs v. Porter - 157 Va. 415, 161 S.E. 242 (1931)


Contracts founded upon an illegal consideration, as being contrary to public policy and forbidden by law, are void.


Defendant H.P. Porter advertised an auction of residences, and as part of the auction, persons who attended would have a chance to win a new automobile, regardless of whether an attendee bought or placed bids on the properties at auction. Plaintiff Mrs. N.S. Maughs attended the auction and entered her name in drawing for the automobile. Maughs was later declared the winner. Porter then placed an order for the automobile, but he refused to pay for it when it was ready for delivery. Porter also refused Maughs' demand that he pay her the value of the car, alleged to be $461. Maughs filed a lawsuit against Porter in Virginia state court seeking a money judgment. Porter filed a demurrer to the action, which the trial court sustained. Maughs appealed.


Was Maughs entitled to a money judgment?




The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court first ruled that held that Maughs' attendance at the sale was a sufficient consideration for the promise to give away an automobile, a promise that could be enforced if it was otherwise legal. The court then agreed with the trial court that Maughs was unable to recover because the automobile was a prize won in a lottery. The Virginia State Constitution, Va. Const. § 60 and Va. Code Ann. §§ 4693, 4694 both prohibited lotteries and therefore made the bargain between Maughs and Porter unenforceable. The court found that Porter’s scheme was consistent with a lottery because it induced people to attend and participate in the drawing.

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