Facts

Peter Beswick was a coal merchant. He agreed to sell his business to his nephew, the respondent, if he paid him a certain sum of money for as long as he lived, and then to pay his wife (the appellant) £5 per week for the rest of her life after he died. He died, and the nephew only paid his aunt once before stating that no contract existed between them. She was also the administrator of her husband's will. Mrs. Beswick was unsuccessful at trial and successful at appeal, which John Joseph Beswick appealed.

Issue

  1. Is Mrs. Peter Beswick able to sue her nephew either in her own personal capacity, as the executrix of the will, or both?

Decision

Appeal dismissed.

Reasons

The House of Lords decide that the aunt has no right to sue her nephew in her own capacity as she was not a party to the contract. This overturns Denning's findings in the lower court allowing third parties to sue for benefits that were guaranteed to them under a contract. However, in her capacity as the administratrix she is able to sue him for the specific performance of his promise that was made in the contract.

Ratio

  • Third parties cannot sue for breach of contract when they were not a party to the contract, even if they were named as a benefactor of the contract.
  • Executors of wills can sue for specific performance of promises made in contracts with the deceased person.
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