Kirksey v. Kirksey
8 Ala. 131 (Ala. 1845)

  • 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 she did.
  • 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 enforceable contract.
    • 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.