Mills v. Wyman
20 Mass. 207 (Mass. 1825)

  • A man, far from home, got ill. Out of the goodness of her heart, a woman took him in and gave him medicine. He got better.
  • After he recovered and left, he wrote her a letter thanking her and promising her $1k.
    • However, the man never sent the money.
  • The woman sued.
  • The Court found for the man.
    • The Court found that there was no bargained for exchange, so there was no enforceable contract.
      • She gave him a gift, and he made her a naked promise. She did not perform the actions in exchange for the $1k.
      • If the sick man had come to her and she said, "I'll give you medicine, but only if you give me $1k in exchange," and he agreed, then he would have been contractually bound to pay, but that wasn't how it happened.
    • The Court found that "past consideration is no consideration."
  • Compare this case to Hamer v. Sidway (N.E. 256 (N.Y. 1891)). In that case there was a similar promise and gift, but the court found the promise binding because the agreement was made between the parties prior to performance.
    • In this case, the promise was made after performance. That's a big difference.