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Contract Law - Discuss the significance of the precedent set in Shadwell v Shadwell

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Lucy Rimington Discuss the significance of the precedent set in Shadwell v Shadwell The issue in Shadwell v Shadwell was whether or an existing promise made to a third party could be good consideration for a new promise. It has long been accepted that where a party merely does something which he is already legally bound this can never amount to sufficient consideration for an entirely fresh agreement as in Collins v Godefroy and this rule has been used to cover where the duty has arisen under an existing contract as shown in the earlier dispute of Stilk v Myrick. In this case, 2 members of a ships crew deserted and the captain promised that the remaining crew members could share the 2 men's wages if they got the ship safely home, but he later refused to pay. It was held that the promise to pay was not binding on him as the sailors were bound by their exiting duties to cope with the normal contingencies of the voyage and this could include desertions. ...read more.


This ruling was highly controversial in law as it went against the presumption that there is no intention to enter legal commitment when in a social or family situation. The precedent set in this case was highly significant as the rule that it established was confirmed a year later in Scotson v Pegg. This ruling in this case also went in favour of the claimant, enforcing a promise made where there had been no fresh consideration offered, only the existing agreement with a third party. However this case may not be a direct application of the precedent, and it could be argued that this case would have had the same outcome with or without Shadwell v Shadwell due to the reasoning of business efficacy. The situation in Scotson v Pegg was a commercial one and it is evident form this and the later case of Glassbrook Bros. ...read more.


In conclusion, the significance or the precedent set in Shadwell v Shadwell is arguable. Many would argue that it was highly significant as it was the beginning of an exception to the basic rule that an existing duty cannot be held as good consideration for a fresh promise. However it can also be argues that Shadwell v Shadwell is the only case of it's type as the other cases that followed it may have been decided more for business efficacy reasons that because of the precedent set in Shadwell v Shadwell. On balance I would say that the precedent set in Shadwell v Shadwell is significant in the development of the law on consideration, but I would not say that the cases following it were decided in the way they were purely due to this precedent and the level of significance of Shadwell v Shadwell may be exaggerated. ...read more.

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