The Law School Authority

Schnell(df/ant) v. Nell (Pl/ee) Case Brief

Summary of Schnell(df/ant) v. Nell (Pl/ee)
S. Ct. Indiana, 1861

Sufficiency of Consideration

Relevant Facts: Theresa Schnell, deceased, drafted a will which declared that three people would receive $200 each in exchange for one cent paid to Zachary Schnell, df, and thereafter Zach. would posthumously pay the $200 over the course of years,  for Theresa his wife’s love and attentions while they were married. The

Legal Issue(s): Whether the will represents legally sufficient consideration imposing a legal obligation upon df to pay the pl’s at his deceased wife’ s bequest and his detriment?

Court’s Holding: No

Procedure: Trial ct. overrulled df’s motion for demurrer of complaint. Pl’s motion for demurrer on Df’s answer was granted.  Reversed and remanded w/costs.

Law or Rule(s): The doctrine of inadequacy of consideration to void an agreement, does not apply to a mere exchange of money whose value is fixed.  It only applies to some other thing of indeterminate value.

Court Rationale: The consideration of one cent will not support the promise of Schnell. The mere promise to pay six hundred dollars for one cent, is an unconscionable contract.  The term one cent is ambiguous and lacks even an indeterminate value.  There is no way of knowing whether the meaning is a coin possessing monetary value or a family piece.  The consideration of one cent is merely nominal.  The will imposed no obligation upon df to discharge her bequests out of his property, and as she had none of her own, his promise to discharge them was not legally binding upon him.  A moral consideration will not support a promise.  The promise was simply one to make a gift. The past services of his wife, and the love and affection he had borne her are not legal considerations.  One – they are past considerations.  Two – the fact that he loved his wife and that she had been industrious constituted no consideration for his promise to pay money.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The will expresses a consideration, one cent, which is sufficient to give it legal authority to contract.

Defendant’s Argument: The promise, within the will, was given without any consideration.

Vitiate – To destroy or annul


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