Salsbury v. Northwestern Bell Telephone Company Case Brief

Summary of Salsbury v. Northwestern Bell Telephone Company

P/S: district court entered judgment for plaintiff and D appealed

F: D wrote a letter saying they were donating $15K to Charles City College; traditionally donations were made with pledge cards. A pledge card form was typed-in to reflect the pledge thought it was never signed by the D. P acted in the belief D was obligated in the same manner as those who executed pledge cards; P says letters such as D’s were sometimes taken in lieu of pledge cards

I: Whether D is bound to pay his subscription by reason of the letter

H: P relied on D’s letter, but not the form of it, and it is the form of the letter that distinguishes it from the pledge cards we have held not to be binding; Affirmed, for P; D has to fulfill his pledge to pay the $15K

Rule: A charitable subscription or pledge is binding without proof that the promise of the subscription or pledge induced action or forbearance or was supported by consideration.


  • Private philanthropy serves a highly important function in society, and charitable subscriptions often serve the public interest by making possible projects which otherwise could never come about.
  • Estoppel can never arise unless there has been reliance.


Restatement (Second) Section 90 — Promise Reasonably Inducing Action or Forbearance

(1) A promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance on the part of the promisee or a third person and which does induce such action or forbearance is binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise. The remedy granted for breach may be limited as justice requires.

(2) A charitable subscription or a marriage settlement is binding under Subsection (1) without proof that the promise induced action or forbearance.


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