Cases

Hamer v. Sidway

 

 CASES

Lead the Clean Life!

hustler2

Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman
in
“The Hustler”

 

HAMER

  v.

SIDWAY

 124 N.Y. 538, 27 N.E. 256

April 14, 1891.

 

 

hustler1Paul Newman and George C. Scott
in “The Hustler”
 
Short Summary and Principle:
 
William E. Story, Sr. promised his nephew William E. Story, 2nd that “Sr.” would pay “The Second” $5000 if “The Second” refrained from drinking, using tobacco, swearing, and playing cards or billiards for money until he became 21 years of age. The nephew agreed and fully performed the conditions. Hamer (the Plaintiff) acquired the rights through an assignment from William E. Story, 2nd and presented a claim of $5000 to the Sidway (the executor of the Story, Sr. estate and the Defendant ).   Sidway rejected the claim on the grounds that there was no binding contract due to the lack of consideration.  Hamer sued.

Issue: Is a forbearance of rights valid consideration?

Court stated that a waiver of any legal right at the request of another party is a sufficient consideration for a promise. The nephew had a legal right to use smoke, drink and due other “evil things.”  He gave up that right for a period of years to comply with the promise hence the requirement of consideration was met. Therefore the contract was enforceable.

Rule of Law:  A valuable consideration in the sense of the law may consist either in some right, interest, profit, or benefit accruing to the one party, or some forbearance, detriment, loss, or responsibility given, suffered, or undertaken by the other.

 Full Case:

At his 16th Birthday, William E. Story II was promised $5000 by his uncle, William E. Story, Sr. if young Willie didn’t drink, use tobacco, swear, gamble or play billiards until he was 21.  When young Willie turned 21 he wrote to Uncle Willie that he had fulfilled his part of the bargain and Uncle Willie wrote back this great letter: 

‘Buffalo, Feb. 6, 1875. W. E. Story, Jr.–Dear Nephew: Your letter of the 31st ult. came to hand all right, saying that you had lived up to the promise made to me several years ago. I have no doubt but you have, for which you shall have five thousand dollars, as I promised you. I had the money in the bank the day you was twenty-one years old that I intend for you, and you shall have the money certain. Now, Willie, I do not intend to interfere with this money in any was till I think you are capable of taking care of it, and the sooner that time comes the better it will please me. I would hate very much to have you start out in some adventure that you thought all right and lose this money in one year. The first five thousand dollars that I got together cost me a heap of hard work. 

You would hardly believe me when I tell you that to obtain this I shoved a jack-plane many a day, butchered three or four years, then came to this city, and, after three months’ perseverance, I obtained a situation in a grocery store. I opened this store early, closed late, slept in the fourth story of the building in a room 30 by 40 feet, and not a human being in the building but myself. All this I done to live as cheap as I could to save something. I don’t want you to take up with this kind of fare. I was here in the cholera season of ’49 and ’52, and the deaths averaged 80 to 125 I was working for, told me, if I left them, to go home, but Mr. Fisk, the gentleman i was working for, told me, if I left them, after it got healthy he probably would not want me. I stayed. 

All the money I have saved I know just how I got it. It did not come to me in any mysterious way, and the reason I speak of this is that money got in this way stops longer with a fellow that gets it with hard knocks than it does when he finds it. Willie, you are twenty-one, and you have many a thing to learn yet. This money you have earned much easier than I did, besides acquiring good habits at the same time, and you are quite welcome to the money. Hope you will make good use of it. I was ten long years getting this together after I was your age. Now, hoping this will be satisfactory, I stop. One thing more. Twenty-one years ago I bought you 15 sheep. These sheep were put out to double every four years. I kept track of them the first eight years. I have not heard much about them since. 

Your father and grandfather promised me that they would look after them till you were of age. Have they done so? I hope they have. By this time you have between five and six hundred sheep, worth a nice little income this spring. Willie, I have said much more than I expectied to. Hope you can make out what I have written. To-day is the seventeenth day that I have not been out of my room, and have had the doctor as many days. Am a little better to day. Think I will get out next week. You need not mention to father, as he always worries about small matters. Truly yours, W. E. STORY. P. S. You can consider this money on interest.’

Two years later, Uncle Willie dies without having paid the money.  Young Willie had assigned his interest in the $5000 to Hamer.  Sidway, the executor of Uncle Willie’s estate argued that the estate should not have to pay because there was no contract, because there was no consideration given by Young Willie (who actually benefited from not using tobacco, liquor, etc.)

The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hamer — the nephew gave up a legal right to do something — to use gamble, use tobacco, drink, play pool, etc.  He gave up this right for a period of years to comply with the promise hence the requirement of consideration was met. Therefore the contract was enforceable.

A valuable consideration in the sense of the law may consist either in some right, interest, profit, or benefit accruing to the one party, or some forbearance, detriment, loss, or responsibility given, suffered, or undertaken by the other.

     
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