Tweddle v Atkinson

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Tweddle v Atkinson
Wedding and Engagement Rings 2151px.jpg
Court High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division
Decided 7 June 1861
Citation(s) [1861] EWHC QB J57], (1861) 1 B&S 393, 121 ER 762
Transcript(s) http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/1861/J57.html
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Wightman J, Crompton J, Blackburn J
Keywords
privity, consideration

Tweddle v Atkinson [1861] EWHC J57 (QB), (1861) 1 B&S 393 is an English contract law case concerning the principle of privity of contract and consideration. In the case, the court declared that the doctrine of privity provided that only those who are party to an agreement may sue or be sued on it. The court also established the principle that "consideration must flow from the promisee."

Facts[edit]

John Tweddle and William Guy mutually agreed in writing to pay sums of money (£100 and £200, respectively) to Tweddle's son William (who was engaged to Miss Guy). Guy then died before payment, and when the estate would not pay, Tweddle jr. then sued Mr Atkinson, the executor of Guy's estate, for the promised £200.

Judgment[edit]

The court held: Tweddle jr's suit would not succeed as no stranger to the consideration may enforce a contract, although made for his benefit. The court ruled that a promisee cannot bring an action unless the consideration from the promise moved from him. Consideration must move from party entitled to sue upon the contract. No legal entitlement is conferred on third parties to an agreement. Third parties to a contract do not derive any rights from that agreement nor are they subject to any burdens imposed by it. It was left unanswered if the groom's father could have successfully sued the estate instead.

Critique[edit]

Although the doctrine of privity was subsequently upheld in Dunlop v Selfridge and Beswick v Beswick, Tweddle v Atkinson has been frequently criticised for obstructing the wishes of the contracting parties. The two fathers intended that the sums should be paid to the groom, and their wishes were defeated. (Note that this case preceded the Married Women's Property Act 1882, which enabled married women to retain to their property). In the 1930s, the Law Reform Committee proposed amendment of the doctrine of privity, but World War II intervened and nothing was done. In Beswick v Beswick, Master of the Rolls Lord Denning construed the Law of Property Act 1925 to try to overthrow the doctrine, but on appeal, the House of Lords criticised Denning's extreme literal interpretation of the Act, and declared the doctrine intact. There have been a number of legal devices to circumvent the doctrines (such as the use of negotiable instruments) but the main change came with the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999. This Act allows a beneficiary or an identified third party to enforce a contract made by others.[1][2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Treitel - The Law of Contract - Edwin Peel
  2. ^ Smith & Thomas: A Casebook on Contract - Roger Brownsword

See also[edit]