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Facts[]

Stilk was contracted to work on a ship owned by Myrick for £5 a month, promising to do anything needed in the voyage regardless of emergencies. After the ship docked at Cronstadt two men deserted, and after failing to find replacements the captain promised the crew the wages of those two men divided between them if they fulfilled the duties of the missing crewmen as well as their own. After arriving at their home port the captain refused to pay the crew the money he had promised to them.

Issue[]

  1. Was there legally sufficient consideration of this agreement to allow the sailors to collect?

Decision[]

No consideration found; finding for the defendant.

Reasons[]

The court held that the original contract bound Stilk to perform any and all duties on board the ship, including performing the additional work of deserted crewmen, which according to the court, was “to be considered an emergency of the voyage as much as [crewmen's] death” and thus did not constitute sufficient consideration. In other words, the crewmen did not perform anything new that they had not already agreed to do under their original agreement before the voyage, so there was no real ‘extra’ work done in exchange for the higher wages. They had already agreed to do all they could in an event of an emergency.  

Ratio[]

Performance of a pre-existing duty is not legally sufficient consideration. They already agreed to do all that was needed in the case of an emergency.

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