Webb v. McGowin Case Brief

Summary of Webb v. McGowin
Ct App Alabama, 1935

Past Consideration

Relevant Facts: Appellant while in the employ of the Lumber Company, he was in the act of dropping a pine block, weighed about 75 pounds, from the upper floor of the mill to the ground below. As he started to turn the block loose so that it would drop to the ground, he saw J. Greeley McGowin, testator of the defendants, on the ground below and directly under where the block would have fallen had appellant turned it loose. He held onto the block and fell with it to the ground below, he diverted the course of its fall in such way that McGowin was not injured. appellant himself received serious bodily injuries, he was badly crippled for life and rendered unable to do physical or mental labor. McGowin agreed to pay for his care, for life, $15 every two weeks, and did so until two weeks after McGowin died.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the agreement by McGowin to care for the service performed and injuries received, by Webb, was sufficient consideration?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Appeal from Circuit Court Judge, action by Webb against McGowin, executors of the estate of J. Greeley McGowin, deceased. From a judgment of nonsuit, plaintiff appeals.
Reversed and remanded.

Law or Rule(s): A moral obligation is sufficient consideration to support a subsequent promise to pay where the promisor has received a material benefit.

Court Rationale: Mr. Webb’s actions which prevented serious injury or death of McGowin were a material benefit to McGowin. He then recognized a moral obligation and expressly agreed to pay for the injury and did so for eight years until his death. McGowin’s express promise to pay Webb for the service rendered was an affirmance or ratification of what Webb had done raising the presumption that the service had been rendered at McGowin’s request. Part of the consideration was that Webb was severely crippled, and McGowin was benefitted with life and loss of injury.

Plaintiff’s Argument: [Webb] McGowin promised to pay for Pl’s care and did so for eight years.

Defendant’s Argument: There was no consideration at the time of the agreement.

[Pitssburgh Brick v Cerebus] Where a promisee cares for, improves, and preserves the property of the promisor, though done without his request, it is sufficient consideration for the promisor’s agreement to pay for the service, b/c of the service received.

[Bayer v Funk] Benefit to the promisor or injury to the promisee is a sufficient legal consideration for the promisee’s agreement to pay.

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