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Law School Case Brief

Seavey v. Drake - 62 N.H. 393 (1882)

Rule:

Equity lends its aid, when there has been part performance, to remove the bar of the statute of frauds, upon the ground that it is a fraud for the vendor to insist upon the absence of a written instrument, when he has permitted the contract to be partly executed.

Facts:

In January 1860, the testator, owning a tract of land and wishing to assist plaintiff, orally promised to give plaintiff a deed for a piece of land. Thereupon, plaintiff entered into possession of the land and made valuable improvements on it. In 1880, the testator died. Subsequently, plaintiff filed an action for specific performance of the oral contract. Defendant estate of the deceased moved to dismiss the action on the ground that the parol contract, which is sought to be enforced, was without consideration.

Issue:

Was the oral contract to convey land enforceable, notwithstanding the fact that it did not comply with the Statute of Frauds?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of New Hampshire discharged the case. The Court held that an oral promise to convey land is enforceable in equity despite the statute of frauds because there was part performance and the plaintiff was in possession and had made valuable improvements upon the property induced by the promise to give it. The Court determined that the money or labor in the improvement of the land induced by the defendant's testator constituted consideration for the promised gift of the land. The expenditure in money or labor in the improvement of the land induced by the donor's promise to give the land to the party making the expenditure, constitutes, in equity, a consideration for the promise, and the promise will be enforced.

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