“Something of value in the eye of the law must be given for a promise in order to make it enforceable as a contract”
Unless an agreement is made under a seal, it cannot be enforced by a party unless there is sufficient consideration furnished by that party to back up the contract. Lush J in Currie v Misa defined consideration to consist in some rights, profits or benefits accruing to a party or a forbearance, detriment or loss given or suffered by the other. It goes on with the saying that consideration need not be adequate but it has to be of some value in the eye of the law.
How then can the court valuate consideration in view of its sufficiency? Smith believes that consideration need not be of economic or monetary value, using analogies from the case of Chappel v Nestle and Humer v Sidway
In Bainbridge v Firmstone, the plaintiff allowed the defendant to weigh two broilers owned by the plaintiff on the condition that they are restored in as good the condition they were lent, however the defendants instead cut the broilers in pieces in order to weigh them and returned them in this state. The plaintiff sued for breach of his undertaking. The Court was of the opinion that the plaintiff had parted with something he apparently would have kept, and this is enough consideration for the enforcement of the undertaking that the def. return it in the state in which it was lent. From the opinions of Prof Smith, consideration doesn’t have to be of economic value; once it is clear that it is what is requested by either party, it is a valuable consideration. It must however be owned by the party giving it out. (Entitlement). Ames and Sagay share this opinion as well.
However, Treitel was of a contrast opinion. He believes that consideration must have economic value. He didn’t expressly state the extent of the value but from his opinion, it can be deduced that consideration must have at least a unit of monetary value that the court can recognize as sufficient5. This is implemented in the case of Falohungi v Falohungi when the court of Appeal declared that love and affection cannot surmount to a good consideration because of the lack of monetary value. In White v. Bluet. A son owed his father some amount of money and the father subsequently promised to discharge him from the debt if he would stop complaining about the manner in which his father had shared his properties. it was then held that the father had every right to distribute his properties the way he please and the son had no right to complain in the first place, therefore, the son had furnished no valuable consideration.
There are various other ways the court would determine the valuation and sufficiency of consideration in relation to different issues. In the instance of finding a valuable consideration in the eye of the law when it comes to issues with existing contractual obligations, the court would not enforce a contract based on the promise to perform or the actual performance of an existing contractual duty for any fresh promise made by the other party. This is simply due to the lack of consideration to enforce the fresh promise. This principle was first brewed in Stilk v. Myrick, where the sailors demanded the extra wages promised by the ship’s captain if they could sail the ship through the turbulent storm. It was held that in their initial contract, the sailors were obliged to sail under such circumstances and therefore there wasn’t any other consideration furnished to enforce the promise of the extra wages.
It can be adduced from the above exposition that the value of consideration in the eye of the law has been subject to variable opinions of the court, but the basic principles followed by all is that there has to be something of objective value possessed by either party that has to be given at the request of the other in order to enforce a contract.
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