Ricketts v. Scothorn (1898)


–          Facts are undisputed.

–          Grandfather gave granddaughter a promissory note for $2,000 + interest…There were witnesses there, that affirmed this.

–          Ricketts is the executor of the will, and believes there was NO form of consideration that would validate it is a contract versus a gift.

–          Grandfather did not want granddaughter to work, didn’t request her to do anything that she didn’t want to…left her options open for her….The court agrees  that the grandfather required nothing of her to do.

–          Granddaughter had to go back to work cause of getting no money….

–          Defendant said that there was no consideration….

Procedural History

–          Supreme Court of Nebraska.

–          Scothorn won in lower courts, and Ricketts is appealing it.

–          Supreme Court affirmed lower court’s decision in favor of Scothorn.


–          Under the given set of circumstances, is there something in this case that can let it be made to look like a contract that is enforceable?

–          Essentially, is there something to validate this promissory note, even though she did nothing in return for the money and it looks like a gift?


–          Yes.


–          An estoppel is defined as “a right arising from acts, admissions, or conduct which have induced a change of position in accordance with the real or apparent intention of the party against whom they are alleged.”


–          ­The grandfather, wanting to put her granddaughter in a position of independence gave her that money…”in effect he suggested that she might abandon her employment, and rely in the future upon the bounty which he promised.

–          He didn’t “require” her to give up her job, but he, DEF considered it as a reasonable and possible consequence of his gift.

–          ***Grossly in-equitable for the executor to not pay the granddaughter due to being zero consideration.”

–          Plaintiff clearly establishes that there is an estoppel present in this case.

–          Needs to show reliance and has to prevent injustice.


– Lower courts affirmed. Money awarded to plaintiff


–          What if the grandfather NEVER mentioned work? And if she bought a horse with the money?

–          Compare this case to Kirksey…How do they differ?

–          Estoppel theory: a representation of fact made by one party and relied on by the other…..must take action that shows reliance…This is used to preclude the excuse that a promise cannot be enforceable without consideration…

  1. Family promises
    1. Bargained for exchange is not common in family settings as they are in commercial settings.
  2. Promises to convey land
    1. Promises have relied upon moving, and fixing land
  3. Promises coupled with gratuitous bailments
  4. Charitable Subscriptions

Restatement 90

“A promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promise and which does induce such action or forbearance is binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise.”

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