Court of Appeal

Court of Appeal’s decision in William v Roffrey Brothers (1990). To summarise the facts, we can say that the parties were in a contract whereby the plaintiff carpenter was to do some refurbishment work on a block of flats for the defendant builders. The plaintiff got into financial difficulties because he had quoted too low a price to do the work. The defendants were liable to a penalty clause in their main contract (with a third party) if the work was not completed on time. The defendant promised the plaintiff an extra £10,300 to ensure that he completed the work on time. When the work was completed the defendants denied liability on the basis that their agreement was not supported by consideration. The Court of Appeal held that the plaintiff had provided consideration for the promise. This might seem a surprising decision but it is important to remember that times have moved on. All three judges were swayed by the fact that the defendants always knew that the plaintiffs really had originally agreed to do the work for too little and that it was likely that in reality the work would cost more. Moreover, there was in no sense any duress exerted by the plaintiff and the defendants had represented that they intended to be bound by the promise.