Thomas v Thomas – Case Summary

Eleanor Thomas v Benjamin Thomas

High Court

Citations: (1842) 2 QBR 851; 114 ER 330.


The defendant was the executor for the estate of the claimant’s deceased husband. Before he died, the husband expressed the wish that the defendant transfer the claimant a life interest in a particular house. After the husband died, the defendant offered to convey to the claimant a life interest in the house if she agreed to maintain it and pay a contribution towards the ground rent. The claimant agreed.

The defendant later went back on his offer, so the claimant sued for breach of contract. The defendant argued that the claimant had not provided any consideration for the agreement, so there was no contract. He argued that this was because his motivation to enter the contract was his feelings of moral obligation towards the dead husband.

  1. Had the parties provided consideration for the agreement?

The High Court held in favour of the claimant. Her agreement to pay a contribution to the ground rent and maintain the house was legally valuable. She therefore provided good consideration. The defendant’s grant of an interest in the house meant that he also provided good consideration. His motive for providing the consideration was irrelevant.

This Case is Authority For…

The provision of anything which the law considers to be a benefit on the other party is valid consideration. The party’s motive for agreeing to the contract is not relevant to whether something is consideration.


Patteson J noted that purely moral or emotional benefits will not constitute good consideration. For example, in this case, if the only benefit which the claimant had provided the defendant was the feeling of satisfaction for having fulfilled the dead man’s wishes, this would not be valid consideration.