A bare moral obligation to support a defendants' claimed oral promise to repay a plaintiff does not alone constitute valid consideration to make a binding contract.
Plaintiff alleged he made payments on the defendants' behalf for a farm now occupied by the defendants and transferred a grazing permit and cattle to them. Plaintiff filed an action for repayment. Any action on these transactions was barred by the statute of limitations. After defendants filed a motion to dismiss, plaintiff amended his complaint to state that defendants made an oral promise to pay him, which action would not be time barred. The motion to dismiss was denied and defendants petitioned the court for an interlocutory appeal under Utah R. Civ. P. 72. Plaintiff contended that the earlier payments he claimed to have made for the defendants' benefit placed them under a moral obligation to repay him, and that this constituted valid consideration to make their oral promise a binding contract.
Can an oral promise make a binding contract between two parties?
The court held that a mere moral, as distinguished from a legal, obligation was not sufficient consideration to support a contract. Each party had to give some legal consideration to the other by conferring a benefit or suffering a legal detriment. Plaintiff did not allege facts sufficient to make the alleged oral promise a binding contract.