Pinnel’s Case – Case Summary

Pinnel’s Case

Court of Common Pleas

Citations: (1602) 5 Rep 117; (1601) 77 ER 237.

Facts

The defendant owed the claimant a sum of money. The defendant offered to pay half the amount in satisfaction of the full debt, and the claimant agreed. However, the claimant later changed their mind and sued for the remainder of the debt.

Issue(s)
  1. Did the defendant’s part-payment of the debt provide consideration for the claimant’s promise to discharge the full debt?
Decision

The Court held in favour of the claimant. The part-payment was not valid consideration.

This Case is Authority For…

Part-payment of a debt cannot be consideration to discharge the full debt.

Other

The Court noted, obiter, some situations in which payment of a lesser value might still be good consideration:

  • Early payment;
  • Payment at a different place than specified in the agreement;
  • Payment using a chattel.

The justification for these exceptions was that it was for the claimant to decide whether these things were more valuable to him than full payment of the debt.

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