Collins v Godefroy [1831] EWHC KB J18

Key point

  • Performance obliged by the general law does not constitute valid consideration for contracts


  • The claimant (C) had been subpoenaed to attend the court as a witness for a case where the defendant (D) is one of the parties
  • D believed that C’s evidence would help his case and promised to pay C for each day he appeared in court
  • C stood by for 6 days but was not called to give evidence. He subsequently requested payment from D
  • D refused to pay and C sued him for the sum owing

Held (High Court)

  • The court found in favour of D
  • There was no binding contract between C and D as C’s promise to appear in court was obliged by law and could not constitute valid consideration

Lord Tenterden C.J.

  • ‘If it be a duty imposed by law upon a party regularly subpoenaed, to attend from time to time to give his evidence, then a promise to give him any remuneration for loss of time incurred in such attendance is a promise without consideration. We think that such a duty is imposed by law; and on consideration of the Statute of Elizabeth, and of the cases which have been decided on this subject, we are all of opinion that a party cannot maintain an action for compensation for loss of time in attending a trial as a witness.’