Earle v. Angell

157 Mass. 294, 32 N.E. 164 (1892)

 

RULE:

A parol contract to pay a person a sum of money conditioned upon his attending the promisor's funeral, and in consideration of his promise to do so, is valid; and the fact that the acceptance varied from the terms of the offer is immaterial, if the jury might have found that the variation was assented to when the contract was made.

 

FACTS:

Contract, against the executor of Mary Dewitt, to recover five hundred dollars upon an agreement made by the plaintiff with the defendant's testatrix in her lifetime.

The paper was as follows:

"$ 500.00. Oxford, August 14th, 1883. If Benjamin A. Earle should come to my funeral, I order my executor to pay him the sum of five hundred dollars. Mary Dewitt."

The defendant offered no evidence, and the plaintiff having rested his case, the judge directed a verdict for the defendant; and the plaintiff alleged exceptions.

ISSUE:

Is a contract to pay money after one's own death valid?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

There is no difficulty in point of law in the way of a parol contract to pay a person $ 500, conditioned upon his attending the promisor's funeral, and in consideration of his promise to do so. It is well settled that a contract to pay money after one's own death is valid. Parker v. Coburn, 10 Allen 82, 83Phillips v. Blatchford, 137 Mass. 510, 514. Krell v. Codman, 154 Mass. 454, 28 N.E. 578And the other elements of the case are examples of very well known principles. The ruling that the plaintiff could not recover must have gone on the ground that there was no evidence of such a contract as we have supposed. According to the report, the plaintiff testified that the defendant's testatrix said, "If you will agree to come, . . . I will give you five hundred dollars," etc., and that he promised to come if alive and notified in time. We cannot say that this did not warrant a finding of promise for promise. It is suggested that the acceptance varied from the terms of the offer. But the parties were face to face, and separated seemingly agreed. The jury well might have found, if that was the only question, that the variation, if any, was assented to on the spot.

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