Contracts I, Pages 80–83

Schnell v. Nell

Supreme Court of Indiana, 1861

Facts:

Defendant's wife wrote a will to the plaintiffs before she died that said she would pay them each $200. She did not owe any of them money. As all of her assets were jointly owned with her husband, none of this got paid, but the husband then agreed to pay them in the coming years anyway in exchange for one cent.

Procedural History:

A demurrer to the complaint was overruled. A demurrer to defendant's answer was sustained on the ground that they were regarded as contradicting the instrument sued on.

Issue:

Does the instrument sued on express a consideration sufficient to give it legal obligation?

Defendant's Argument:

No consideration was given because defendants wife did not owe the plaintiffs anything.

Rule:

Disproportionationality of consideration does matter for exchanges of sums of money whose value is exactly fixed.

Reasoning:

One cent is clearly nominal and insufficient consideration. The other reasonings given are purely moral, not legal. The considerations given are past considerations.

Holding:

No, such an instrument does not express a consideration. Judgment reversed with costs. Cause remanded, etc.

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