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Law School Case Brief

Springstead v. Nees - 125 A.D. 230, 109 N.Y.S. 148 (App. Div. 1908)

Rule:

The consideration for a promise is not found in the fact that there is a compromise of a disputed claim, for there is no evidence thereof. It must rest then upon the forbearance to exercise a legal right. Forbearance to assert either a legal or an equitable claim is sufficient consideration. It is not essential that a claim should be valid, but it is enough if it could be regarded as doubtful or colorable. It is not necessary that the party should have a right to hold, if it be doubtful whether he has a right to hold. But if the claim be not even doubtful or colorable or plausible in that there is no reason for an honest belief that it has some foundation in law or in equity, then forbearance applied to it is not good consideration.

Facts:

The parties were all of the surviving children of Nees, deceased, who died intestate leaving them his sole heirs at law. Nees died the owner and seized of realty called the Sackett Street property and the owner of realty called the Atlantic Avenue property which he held by deed to him as trustee for his children Sophia and George. Shortly after Nees' death all of the parties, an attorney at law and friends, met in Nees' house. Nees' strong box was opened and when the deed to the Atlantic Avenue property was found therein, the attorney handed it to Sophia, saying, "This is yours." The evidence for the plaintiffs is that they or some of them were surprised to learn that this deed was to their father in trust for two of the children, for theretofore they had believed that he was the owner and seized in fee. They expressed their surprise and there were murmurings. Thereupon Sophia spoke up, saying, "We will give you our share * * * in the Sackett Street property, but don't you bother us on the Atlantic Avenue house," and George assented. The Sackett Street property was sold thereafter. This action is brought by the other three children against Sophia and George upon that alleged promise of Sophia and George, to recover their proportionate share of the proceeds of that sale. Sophia and George testified that no such promise ever was made. The learned court gave judgment for the defendants, dismissing the complaint, with costs. After finding the preliminary facts which were not disputed, the court found that the defendants after the death of their father were seized in fee simple of the Atlantic Avenue property and held indefeasible title thereto; that the plaintiffs had no color of right in the Atlantic Avenue property and did not at any time threaten or attempt to assert any claim of right hostile to the defendants in that property; that there was no compromise either wholly or partly executed between the parties affecting rights which the plaintiffs might have in that property; that the plaintiffs had given up no rights in that property nor had they changed their position therein, and that a promise made by the defendants to the plaintiffs that if the plaintiffs "would not 'molest' or 'bother' or 'make a fuss' about the defendants' rights on the Atlantic Avenue property the defendants would give the plaintiffs their share in the Sacket Street property.

Issue:

Was a valid contract formed between the parties?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court reviewed the record and determined that there had been no consideration for any contract, so no contract had been formed. The court explained that a valuable consideration may consist of some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to one party or some forbearance, detriment, loss or responsibility given, suffered or undertaken by the other. The court concluded that plaintiffs had no colorable right to the property received by defendants so there was no consideration or contract.

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