Contracts II, Pages 1244–1247

Lawrence v. Fox

Court of Appeals of New York, 1859

Judgment:

Affirmed.

Facts:

Holly owed plaintiff some money. Holly loaned defendant $300, who agreed to repay the $300 by paying it to plaintiff in lieu of Holly the next day. However, defendant failed to pay, so plaintiff sued.

Procedural History:

  • Trial court overruled defendant's motion for a nonsuit, and the jury found for plaintiff in the amount of $344.66.

  • Superior Court affirmed.

Issue:

Can a promise to pay a debt to a third person be enforced by him?

Reasoning:

Holly agreed to give defendant the money upon consideration of defendant paying Holly's debt. While defendant was not a trustee of Holly's money, this plainly made it his duty to pay plaintiff, as if he were a trustee. No one attempted to discharge defendant of having this obligation, and it is unlikely that Holly would be able to.

Rule/Holding:

A third party can enforce a promise to debt on behalf of another.

Dissenting Opinion:

Comstock: Plaintiff had nothing to do with the promise defendant made. He would have benefitted, but he had no privity as is usually required. Holly was in control of defendant's performance and could have changed his mind on how defendant was to repay him. Plaintiff then had no right to enforce the promise defendant made to Holly. The lower court's judgment should be reversed.

Takeaway: