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The legal meaning of 'consideration'.

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Introduction

"The courts have insisted that no contract (other than a contract under seal) can be enforceable in the absence of consideration." Shears & Stephenson [1996] Under English law, for a simple contract to be valid, there must be 'consideration' from the party accepting the offer. The traditional definition comes from the case of Currie v Misa [1875] where Luch LJ states: 'A valuable consideration in the sense of the law may consist either in 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 legal meaning of 'consideration' is not very different from the everyday use of term. For example, if it was said, "For a small consideration I will..." it is probably an offering to do something for money. However, the consideration need not be monetary. It need not even be a benefit, i.e.

Middle

Consideration might be provided if the creditor agrees to accept: > Part-payment on an earlier date than the due date. > Chattel instead of money. > Part-payment in a different place to that originally specified. Also a promise to accept a smaller sum in full satisfaction will be binding on a creditor where the part-payment is made by a third party on condition that the debtor is released from the obligation to pay the full amount5. A further exception to the rule is to be found in the equitable doctrine of promissory estoppel. This is the name given to the equitable doctrine which has as its principal source the obiter dicta of Denning LJ in Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd [1947]. The principle is that if someone makes a promise, which another person acts on, the promisor is stopped, or estopped, from going back on the promise, even though the other person did not provide consideration.

Conclusion

* It must be inequitable for the promisor to go back on his promise and revert to his strict legal rights6. Furthermore, it must be said on the promissory estoppel doctrine is that it cannot be used to found a cause of action; that is, it may not be used in legal proceedings brought to force someone to uphold a promise. It can only be used to prevent someone going back on their promise and insisting on enforcement of their strict right7. It is to be used as a shield, not a sword. Denning LJ states on this matter: '...that principle does not create new causes of action where none existed before...' Thus there is, in the name of equity, a doctrine which makes certain promises enforceable despite the absence of consideration. 1 Dunlop v Selfridge [1915] 2 Tweddle v Atkinson [1861] 3 Chappell & Co v Nestle [1960] 4 Stilk v Myrick [1809] 5 Hirachand Punamchand v Temple [1911] 6 D & C Builders v Rees [1965] 7 Coombe v Coombe [1951] Contract Law Assignment 3 Access to Law Mohammed Abdullah

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