Kirksey was a widow who was
living in a leased a property. Her brother-in-law wrote her a letter
telling her to give up the lease and move to a house on his land, which
After two years, he told her
to move out. She sued.
She argued that she had given
up a lease to move into the new property, so she was in worse shape now
than she would have been if the brother-in-law had not made the offer.
Therefore she had a reliance interest.
Trial Court found in favor of
the widow and ordered a $200 judgment. Brother-in-law appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed.
The Appellate Court found
that the promise was a "mere gratuity," it wasn't an
The Court found that the
fact that the widow did something (gave up her lease) can't be considered
a consideration because everyone
must always do something to get a gift, even if it's just "holding
out one's hand."
In a dissent, it was argued
that that the widow's giving up of her house and moving was sufficient consideration.
The dissent argued that the
widow gave up her house, so she is in a worse place that she would have
been if she had never accepted the promise.
One of the deciding factors in
this case was that the widow did not give up her house in order to get the
exchange. Giving up the house was not an inducement to the brother-in-law to give her a place to
live, therefore it is not a consideration.
If the brother-in-law said,
"I'll let you live in my house but only if you break your current
lease," then there would have been an inducement, and perhaps a reliance interest.
This decision was based on
'old' theories of reliance. It was cases like this that troubled judges
and led to a reinterpretation of the concept of reliance.