Weeks v Tybald (1605) Noy 11

Parties not bound by general words in relation to a purported marriage agreement


The case derives from 1605. The defendant who was the father of a woman to whom the plaintiff sought to “woo” with the intention of marriage.


The plaintiff sought to enforce an alleged promise made by the defendant with regard to marriage between the plaintiff and the defendant’s daughter. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant spoke with the father of the plaintiff and the plaintiff was given liberty to come to the house of the defendant to “woo” his daughter.” There was an alleged “communication of marriage” between the plaintiff and the daughter of the defendant. Furthermore, at the purported meeting at the house of the defendant, the defendant is purported to have immediately affirmed and made it known that he would give the plaintiff 100l and would allow the plaintiff to marry his daughter with his consent.


The Court of King’s Bench observed that it was not averred nor declared by the plaintiff to whom the relevant words were spoken. Accordingly, the Court held that it was unreasonable that the defendant should be bound by such general words which may be “spoken to excite suitors.” Accordingly, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed. The case is authority for the  proposition that an obviously exaggerated claim (such as the financial payment suggested by the defendant) may preclude a clear intention to create legal relations. It must be clear that a reasonable person would consider a particular representation as a promise binding in law.    (See Esso Petroleum Co. Ltd. v Customs and Excise Commissioners [1975] 1 WLR 406).

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