Foakes v Beer: HL 16 May 1884

Mrs Beer had obtained judgment against Dr Foakes for pounds 2,090 19s. He asked for time to pay and they agreed with him, acknowledging the debt, and paying part immediately and undertaking to pay the balance over a period of time. In consideration of the part payment and Dr Foakes’s undertaking to pay the balance in instalments Mrs Beer agreed not to take any proceedings on the judgment. After the whole sum had been paid, however, she sought to take proceedings on the judgment to recover interest.
Held: A promise to pay part of a debt is not good consideration in law. The House applied the rule in Pinnel’s Case that since the obligations undertaken by Dr Foakes under the agreement added nothing to his existing obligation under the judgment, he had provided no consideration for Mrs Beer’s promise not to take action on the judgment which was therefore unenforceable.
Lord Blackburn argued for the abolition of the rule in Pinnel’s case: ‘What principally weighs with me in thinking that Lord Coke made a mistake of fact is my conviction that all men of business, whether merchants or tradesmen, do every day recognize and act on the ground that prompt payment of a part of their demand may be more beneficial to them than it would be to insist on their rights and enforce payment of the whole. Even where the debtor is perfectly solvent, and sure to pay at last, this often is so. Where the credit of the debtor is doubtful it must be more so.’

Lord Blackburn
(1884) 9 App Cas 605, [1884] UKHL 1
England and Wales
AppliedPinnel’s Case, Penny v Core CCP 1602
Payment of Lesser Sum Not Satisfaction
(Court of Common Pleas) The payment of a lesser sum on the day in satisfaction of a greater, cannot be any satisfaction for the whole. The gift of a horse, hawk, robe, etc., in satisfaction, is good. Payment of part before the day and acceptance may . .

Cited by:
CitedBradford and Bingley Plc v Rashid HL 12-Jul-2006
Disapplication of Without Prejudice Rules
The House was asked whether a letter sent during without prejudice negotiations which acknowledged a debt was admissible to restart the limitation period. An advice centre, acting for the borrower had written, in answer to a claim by the lender for . .
CitedCollier v P and M J Wright (Holdings) Ltd CA 14-Dec-2007
Agreement for payment by joint debtor not contract
The claimant appealed against refusal of an order to set aside a statutory demand. He said that he had compromised a claim by the creditors. He argued for an extension to the Rule in Pinnel’s case, so that where a debtor agrees to pay part of a . .
AppliedIn Re Selectmove Ltd CA 21-Dec-1993
Promisse to Pay Tax due is not Consideration
The company appealed against an order for its winding up, saying that the debt was disputed, an accomodation having been reached with the Revenue.
Held: The court declined to regard a promise to the Revenue by a company to pay its existing . .
CitedHirachand Punamchand v Temple CA 1911
The defendant, a British army officer in India, had given a promissory note to the plaintiff moneylenders. Unable to pay, he suggested they apply to his father, Sir Richard Temple. In reply, Sir Richard Temple’s solicitors wrote saying they were . .
For Examination laterRock Advertising Ltd v MWB Business Exchange Centres Ltd SC 16-May-2018
The parties disputed whether a contract (licence to occupy an office) had been varied by an oral agreement, where the terms prohibited such.
Held: The ‘no oral variation’ clause applied. Such clauses were in common commercial use and served a . .
CitedWilliams v Roffey Brothers and Nicholls (Contractors) Ltd CA 23-Nov-1989
The defendant subcontracted some of its work under a building contract to the plaintiff at a price which left him in financial difficulty and there was a risk that the work would not be completed by the plaintiff. The defendant agreed to make . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Contract

Leading Case

Updated: 23 December 2021; Ref: scu.243134