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Law School Case Brief

Pappas v. Bever - 219 N.W.2d 720 (Iowa 1974)


When words expressing an intention to do something in the future stand alone, they are not a promise and hence do not create an obligation. A mere expression of intention is not a promise. A statement of intention is the mere expression of a state of mind, put in such a form as neither to invite nor to justify action in reliance by another person. A promise is also the expression of a state of mind, but put in such a form as to invite reliance by another person.


Philip Bissonnette, Jr. executed a form indicating his "intention" to subscribe to the Charles City College "Founder's Fund" ("Fund") in the amount of $5,000. Bisonnette paid $1,000 on the pledge in both 1967 and 1968. The College closed in May 1968, and Bisonnette made no further payments before to his death on May 15, 1969. Plaintiff William Pappas, the College's receiver, filed a lawsuit in Iowa state court against defendant Sondra Bever, the executor of the Bisonnette's estate, seeking to enforce Bisonnette's pledge to the Fund. According to Pappas, the fund raising pledge was obligatory, proved by the fact of payments made by Bisonnette. The trial court ruled in favor of Bever. Pappas appealed.


Was the fund-raising pledge executed by Bisonnette obligatory?




Noting that there was no extrinsic evidence to consider the matter, the state supreme court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of Bever. In reaching its conclusion, the court noted that the pledge merely stated that Bisonnette "intended" to donate funds. The court held that the term "intend," without more, did not render the pledge obligatory. The court then held that two payments made by Bisonnette on the pledge did not convert the statement of intention into a promise as to the complete pledge.

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