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

Authors Avatar

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.  This outlined the basic rule that a duty covered under an existing contract cannot be sufficient consideration for a new promise.

Join now!

Shadwell v Shadwell is the first illustration of an exception to the basic rule, that an existing contractual duty to a third party can be used as good consideration for a fresh deal.  In the case of Shadwell v Shadwell, a nephew had made a promise to marry, which at the time was an enforceable contract and the uncle later promised that he would pay his nephew £150 a year until he was earning £600 a year as a barrister.  The young man did marry the woman to whom he was engaged and claimed the money from his uncle ...

This is a preview of the whole essay