Summary of Lingenfelder v. Wainwright Brewery
S. Ct. of Missouri, 1891
Pre-existing Duty Rule
Relevant Facts: The Pl is the executor of the estate of Jungenfeld, who was an architect. While employed by df brewery to design new buildings for the df, he noticed a competitor was erecting one of the new buildings. Jungenfeld also owned a refrigeration company. He threatened to quit unless df agreed to pay a percentage, 5%, of the refrigeration plant’s cost. Upon completion Jungenfeld demanded payment and df refused to pay anything more than the original contract price.
Legal Issue(s): Whether Jungenfeld and Wainwright entered into a new contract with additional consideration to perform the original plus a commission?
Court’s Holding: No
Procedure: Trial court found for the df. Circuit Ct determined recovery of $3449.75 to the pl, Referee recommended reversal to that extent, S. Ct. reversed C. Ct.
Law or Rule(s): A promise to pay a man for doing that which he is already under contract to do is without consideration. A change, or modification to an original contract, upon new or different considerations is binding.
Court Rationale: When a party merely does what he has already obligated himself to do, he cannot demand an additional compensation therefor, and although by taking advantage of the necesities of his adversary he obtains a promise for more, the law will regard it as nudum pactum and will not lend its process to aid in the wrong.
Plaintiff’s Argument: (respondents) When Jungenfeld declined to go further the df had the right to sue for damages, and did not but agreed to compensate in exchange for continuation.
Defendant’s Argument: Under the new promise the df received the same service under the original contract, and the pl extorted the promise of 5%.