Schnell v. Nell

17 Ind. 29 (1861)



Inadequacy of consideration will not vitiate an agreement. But this does not apply to a mere exchange of sums of money, of coin, whose value is exactly fixed, but to the exchange of something of, in itself, indeterminate value, for money, or, perhaps, for some other thing of indeterminate value. 


Appellant husband and heirs entered into a contract whereby the husband agreed to pay each of the heirs $ 200.00 because his deceased wife had made such a provision in her will but did not have the money to make the gifts. The contract stated that in consideration for the husband's promise to pay, the heirs would give him one penny. The husband did not pay as stated in the contract and the heirs filed suit. The husband answered with the defense of lack of consideration, but the lower court granted the heirs' demurrer to the defense. The court reversed and found the demurrer should have been overruled. 


Was appellant's moral obligation to his deceased wife sufficient consideration to enforce the contract?




The court found that the consideration of one cent would not support the husband's promise because it was a mere exchange of money and it rendered the contract unconscionable. The court found that while the husband may have had a moral obligation to pay because he loved his wife and wanted her wishes fulfilled, his moral obligation was not consideration.

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