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Combe v Combe [1951] 2 KB 215

Facts:

W divorced H and is claiming maintenance. Letter between the two H agreed to pay W. H never paid. W makes more money then H

Issue(s):

Was there sufficient consideration to support the promise?

Ratio:

Promissory estoppel used as a shield NOT a sword

Hightrees principle may be part of a cause of action, but not a cause of action itself. This principle does not do away with consideration.
**Hightrees can be used when contract modified but NOT to create contract – use it as a defence.

Unilateral promises are enforced as long as the act of forbearance is done on the faith of the promise and at the request of the promisor (express or implied)

Analysis:

Clear distinction between creating and modifying a contract.

Principle: where one party intended to affect the legal relations between them and to be acted upon accordingly, then, once the other party has taken him at his word and acted on it, the one who gave the promise cannot be allowed to revert to the previous legal relations.

Comments:

Gilbert Steel:
Promissory estoppel (Hightrees) would not apply
**Shield not a sword (from Combe – but Combe is not an authority here)
***Increase price was modification of existing contract
**Act to your detriment
***Act in a way you give up options you may have otherwise taken


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