Accord and satisfaction
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Accord and satisfaction is a contract law concept about the purchase of the release from a debt obligation. The payment is typically less than the amount owed and is not paid by the actual performance of the original obligation. The accord is the agreement to discharge the obligation and the satisfaction is the legal "consideration" which binds the parties to the agreement.
If a person is sued over an alleged debt, that person bears the burden of proving the affirmative defense of accord and satisfaction.
|Part of the common law series|
|Defenses against formation|
|Excuses for non-performance|
|Rights of third parties|
|Breach of contract|
|Related areas of law|
|Other common law areas|
Accord and satisfaction is a settlement of an unliquidated debt. For example, a builder is contracted to build a homeowner a garage for $35,000. The contract called for $17,500 prior to starting construction, to disburse $10,000 during various stages of construction, and to make a final payment of $7,500 at completion. At completion, the homeowner complained about inferior work quality and refused to make the final payment. After a mutual settlement agreement, the builder accepted $4,000 as full payment. Thereby, a new contract was formed by offer, acceptance, and consideration. The consideration is that for a $3,500 savings, the homeowner gives up that which he is entitled, a well-constructed garage. The builder gives up his right to full price to avoid suit for inferior performance. When accord and settlement has occurred, the homeowner and builder have given up his right to sue for more money under this settlement agreement.
Another example would be where a lender agrees to loan $100,000 at 5.0% interest for 30 years, and at the closing the loan documents are all drawn up for a loan with a 6.0% interest rate. If the lender agrees to reduce the closing costs by an extra $1000 and the borrowers agree, then there has been an accord and satisfaction. If the borrowers later sue for breach of contract, the settlement (offer and acceptance of the $1000) constitutes an accord and satisfaction and is a valid defense to the borrower's lawsuit.
The accord agreement must be transacted on a new agreement. It must therefore have the essential terms of a contract, (parties, subject matter, time for performance, and consideration). If there is a breach of the accord there will be no "satisfaction" which will give rise to a breach of accord. In this instance the non-offending party has the right to sue under either the original contract or the accord agreement.
In an accord contract it is typical that the consideration supplied is less than bargained for in the original contract. In accord contracts that require an amount of consideration that is less than the original, the consideration must be of a different type, i.e. instead of money, debtor offers a car or a boat.
Accord as an Equitable Defense
A valid accord does not discharge the prior contract; instead it suspends the right to enforce it in accordance with the terms of the accord contract, in which satisfaction, or performance of the contract will discharge both contracts (the original and the accord). If the creditor breaches the accord, then the debtor will be able to bring up the existence of the accord in order to enjoin any action against him.
- Foakes v. Beer - an old leading case on the exception of accord and satisfaction where the debt was not in dispute
- D & C Builders Ltd v Rees - where the creditor accepted the offer under duress
- Pinnel's Case - where the payment of a lesser amount was to be paid before the debt fell due
- Hirachand Punumchand v Temple - where the offeree was a 3rd party (the debtor's father)
- Part performance - related legal concept
- Jacob & Young, Inc. v. Kent, 230 N.Y. 239, (N.Y. App. 1921).