Different approach taken by the Court of Appeal in Williams v Roffey was it fair or not?
It is commonly accepted within the English Contract Law that the models of contractual fairness must exist in contractual disputes. Essential to these models is the doctrine of consideration and the principles that comes under the doctrine of consideration such as laws derived from both Williams v Roffey (1990) and Stilk v Myrick (1809). Starting with the development of the doctrine of consideration and the principles developed in Williams v Roffey and Stilk v Myrick, I will discuss why these aspects seem inconsistent and incongruent with the common sense but at the same why they must be maintained to endorse the contractual fairness. This essay will analyse the implications of Williams v Roffey on the law concerning the performance of duty which a promisee is already obliged to perform. The doctrine of consideration has developed over several years. At first, the doctrine of consideration was merely based on the grounds of moral obligation. However, this doctrine really developed later on and in the year 1842 in the case of Thomas v Thomas, consideration was described as ‘Something which is of some value in the eye of the law, moving from the plaintiff; it may be some detriment to the plaintiff or some benefit to the defendant, but at all events it must be moving from the plaintiff’.[ S. Salzedo, P. Brunner & M. Ottley, 2004. p 48 ] This standard interpretation of the doctrine of consideration is supported by the idea of ‘reciprocity’ which was considered and further developed in the case of Currie v Misa (1875), where the judge gave a definition of the traditional view as, ‘A valuable consideration in the sense of the law, may consist either in some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to one party or some forbearance, detriment, loss or responsibility, given, suffered or undertaken by the other’. [R.Stone, 2002. p 76] This definition suggests that a promisee can enforce any promise only when the promisee has promised to give something in return for the promise. Many previous cases have been decided upon this basis but a clear change of attitude towards the doctrine of consideration is noticeable when we look at the decision made in Williams v Roffey, which added another perspective to the orthodox definition of consideration and not only this but it went as far as to question its importance in the modern contract law. This essay will now revolve to analyse the implications of Williams v Roffey on the law concerning the performance of duty that a promisee is already obliged to perform. Until recently it was not possible to create two contracts by giving the same consideration again. Originally this principle was established in the case of Stilk v Myrick. In Stilk v Myrick, the sailors promised to work and in return were promised to be paid £5 per month. Unfortunately, the group of 11 sailors was reduced to 9 after two of the sailors deserted them in the Baltic. Rest of the sailors refused to work and pressurised the captain to increase their wages. Due to pressure from the sailors, the captain agreed to split the wages of the 2 sailors among 9 sailors, equally, if they made it back to the destination. Later, the captain refused to pay them extra. The sailors sued the captain but lost. The court held that the sailors were not entitled to extra money which they were promised because at the start of the journey they had promised the captain that they would do the work in return for £5 per month. It was held that the sailors could not later give the same promise again to the captain as a consideration for a new contract. This case laid out a simple rule that when an existing contractual duty owed to the promissor is performed, it does not amount to consideration. Which means that the performance by promisee of an existing contractual duty, which he already owes to the promissor is no consideration for a promise made by...
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