Allegheny College v. National Chautauqua County Bank

Court of Appeals of New York, 1927.

246 N.Y. 369, 159 N.E. 173.

Dawson, pp. 247-253


Facts: Johnston promised $5,000 to Allegheny College upon her death.While still alive, she gave the college $1,000.Then she repudiated her promise and died.The college sued her estate to get the money.


Issue: Was the promise purely gratuitous and thus unenforceable?


Rule: Courts will not enforce purely gratuitous promises with some exceptions such as charitable subscriptions.


Analysis: The court finds that naming a fund after Johnston is sufficient consideration to make her promise binding.Even if that werenít the case, courts tend to enforce promises to give gifts to charity.


Cardozoís dicta suggests that promissory estoppel will in the future be a ground for enforcing promises that is really part of the theory of consideration.


Kellogg dissents and says he didnít find the consideration cited by Cardozo to be valid.


Conclusion: The judgment of the lower courts is reversed and a verdict is entered for the plaintiff.


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