BetterLawNotes-5 (2)


In this siutation, D promises to pay C in return for C doing something, or promising to do something, which C is already obliged to do under the general law. 

It is clear law that the doing of, or the promising to do, a thing which claimant is already required to do as a matter of general law will not amount to good consideration for a return promise made by the defendant.

Collins v Godefroy (1831) 1 B & Ad 950

Godefroy brought a negligence action against his attorney and caused Collins to be subpoenaed to attend court to give evidence. Collins attended court for six days but was not called. Collins sued Godefroy for six guineas, being his regular fee for attending court. Lord Tenterden CJ held that, assuming an express promise to pay the six guineas had been made, the promise was not enforceable. Having been subpoenaed, Collins was under a duty imposed by law to attend court. It followed that a promise to pay him for such attendance was a promise without consideration.

Glasbrook Bros Ltd v Glamorgan CC [1925] AC 270

During an industrial strike, the manager of a colliery asked that a police force be stationed inside the colliery. The police superintendent thought that a mobile force would provide sufficient protection and refused to station officers inside the colliery unless the manager agreed to pay for the service. The House of Lords held by a bare majority that the agreement by the superintendent to station officers inside the colliery in return for payment was enforceable.

The outcome of the Glasbrook case may be supported on the basis that by agreeing to station officers inside the colliery, the police superintendent was doing more than his existing duty required of him: he reasonably and in good faith thought that the stationing of men in the colliery was not necessary for the protection of life and property.

Ward v Byham [1956] 1 WLR 496

The father of an illegitimate child paid a neighbour £1 a week to look after the child. The child’s mother wrote to the father asking to look after the child for the same weekly amount. The father agreed provided that the mother could prove that the child would be well looked after and happy. The child went to live with the mother but after a time the father stopped making the weekly payments. The father’s promise was held to be enforceable. By proving the child was well looked after and happy, the mother was exceeding the duty imposed on her by the general law to care for the child.

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