Mills v. Wyman
Supreme Judicial court of Massachusetts 1825
20 Mass (3 Pick) 207
Levi Wyman had been at sea and docked at Hartford. He was very ill and was taken in by the defendant
and nursed for a period of 15 days from feb5th until the 20th. The trial states that Levi died. Levis’ father
having heard what the defendant had done for his ill son had written a letter stating that he’d pay for
the services rendered however he did not pay. He denied paying as he no longer felt obligated to pay for
his son as his son no longer resided with him and he would therefore receive no consideration.
The case states the son never requested the services and the plaintiff acted as a Good Samaritan. The
original case (court of pleas) directed a non-suit stating there was no consideration for a promise.
Issue: Whether moral obligation is sufficient consideration to make a promise enforceable?
Law: moral obligation is sufficient consideration to support an express promise.
Holding: Judgment for the defendant
Reasoning: There must be a pre-existing obligation for there to be sufficient consideration. It is only
when the party making the promise gains something, or he to whom it is made loses something, that the
law gives the promise validity.
Notes: Moral obligation is consideration enough to support and express promise but not always.
It is in the following cases where there is pre-existing obligation
1. Debts barred by the statue of limitations
2. Debts incurred by an infant
3. Debts of bankruptcy