ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, December 12, 2005

Today in History: The Case of the Axe-Wielding Wife

Axe Sixty years ago today, on December 12, 1945, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued its brief decision in the quintessential "rescuer" case, Harrington v. Taylor, 225 N.C. 690, 36 S.E.2d 227 (1945).

In the case the defendant husband had assaulted his wife, who took refuge in the house of a neighbor, the plaintiff.  The next day the husband entered the neighbor's house and started to assault his wife again.  This time, the wife grabbed an axe and knocked the husband down.  She was on the point of cleaving his skull with the axe when the neighbor intervened to save his life, deflecting the blade, which mutilated her hand.  The grateful husband promised to pay the neighbor her damages, but soon (as you'd expect him to do) reneged.  The neighbor sued.

Held:  The husband's promise was gratuitous and was not supported by consideration, since the neighbor had saved his life before the promise was made, and therefore it was not bargained-for.  There was no contract and thus no obligation to pay.  (Image: Wikipedia)

[Frank Snyder]

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