Blair v. Anderson Case Brief

Summary of Blair v. Anderson
S Ct DE [1974]

Expanding Use of 3rd Party Beneficiaries Concepts

Relevant Facts: The Pl was formerly a Federal prisoner who alleged that while incarcerated he was the victim of an assault and the Dfs, including the State of DE, were negligent in permitting the assault.

Legal Issue(s): Whether a federal prisoner was a creditor beneficiary of contract between State and federal government providing for the safekeeping, care, and subsistence of such prisoner; and that State waived any defense based upon principle of sovereign immunity by entering into such contracts for safekeeping of federal prisoner with the federal government?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Sup Ct granted State’s motion to dismiss on ground that action was barred by doctrine of sovereign immunity whether claim be considered to lie in contract or in tort, and prisoner appealed. Supreme Court, Affirmed in part (tort), reversed in part(K).

Law or Rule(s): Generally, rights of third-party beneficiary are those rights specified in the contract; but if performance of promise will satisfy a legal obligation which a promisee owes a beneficiary, the beneficiary is a creditor beneficiary with standing to sue.

Court Rationale: Suits may be brought against the State, according to such regulations as shall be made by law. Statute and judicial hx makes it that sovereign immunity may be “waived by legislative act and only be legislative act." Waiver need not be made in express statutory language. When the General Assembly authorizes a K to be made it implicitly and necessarily waives immunity to suit for breach by the State of the K. To the extent of the k w/ the U. S. the State of DE has waived sovereign immunity in a suit for its own breach of that K. The PL is a creditor beneficiary. The U. S. owed a duty of care and subsistence to a person it caused to be committed and it owed a statutory duty of “safekeeping,’ and protection. By K DE agreed to perform that duty. The Pl is the very subject of the agreement. He has not only a direct interest in the K but a right to enforce it as against the State if it fails to provide the requisite minimums.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The State breached its K with the U. S. where the Pl had a direct interest in the fulfillment of the terms of the K.

Defendant’s Argument: The State is shielded from suit by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The State was only required, by agreement, to provide room and board to the Pl.



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