White v Bluett (1853) LJ Ex 36

Contract law – Consideration


Bluett Sr. lent his son, the respondent in this case, a sum of money and died before his son had repaid this to him. Bluett Sr. and Jr. had agreed on this and completed a promissory note to this effect.  Bluett’s will was executed by White. In the course of executing the will, White sued Bluett’s son for the outstanding payment. The son argued, as a defence, that Bluett Sr. had stated that repayment was not necessary to render the promissory note ineffective if the son stopped complaining about the manner in which Bluett Sr. spread his estate among the other members of the family.


The court was required to define whether the son’s promise to stop complaining about his father’s plans would satisfy the requirement of consideration in constructing a contract. If this could be proven, then it would be likely that Bluett’s son would be released from the requirement to repay the debt owed to his father’s estate.


The court held that there was no consideration given by the son which would absolve him of having to repay the debt to his father’s estate. The court also believed that the son had no right to complain as the father was free to distribute his property as he wished. As a result, ceasing from complaining was not consideration and was ultimately an intangible promise. Pollock, CB was clear in his summing up of the decision: ‘...the argument…is pressed to an absurdity, as a bubble is blown until it bursts’.