Alabama Supreme Court - 8 Ala. 131
In the case of Kirksey v. Kirksey (1845), a widow sued her brother-in-law for breaking his promise to give her a house if she moved onto his property. After relocating with her children, she was evicted two years later and given a lesser house in the woods. The court ruled in favor of the brother-in-law, stating that his promise was not a valid contract due to a lack of consideration.
Consideration, a vital part of a contract, is the exchange of something valuable between the parties, which motivates them to enter the contract. Without consideration, a promise doesn't hold any legal weight—even if made in good faith.
This case highlights the importance of consideration in contracts and demonstrates that courts won't enforce promises based solely on family ties or moral obligations unless there's evidence of a bargained-for exchange. It also illustrates the difference between a gift and a contract. A gift is a voluntary property transfer without expectation of return, while a contract is a mutual agreement that creates legal responsibilities.
The court is split on whether the defendant's promise to give the plaintiff a house and land in exchange for her relocation is a valid consideration for a contract. The majority believes that the plaintiff's loss and inconvenience of moving is enough consideration, while the minority sees the promise as a mere gift. The lower court's decision is overturned based on the parties' agreement.
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