Devecmon v. Shaw – Case Brief
Devecmon v. Shaw, 14 A. 464 (Md. 1888).
Facts: John Semmes Devecmon (P) sued Shaw (D) and the other executors of the estate of his uncle, John S. Combs. The trial court entered a default judgment in favor of Devecmon and turned to the issue of assessing damages. P sought to introduce into evidence his own testimony and accounts taken from the books of his deceased uncle. P had been employed by his uncle and had made a trip to Europe on Combs’ promise that he would reimburse P for the trip as a gift. P appealed the court’s refusal to admit the evidence.
Issue: If a party has detrimental reliance on a promise of a gift, does the promissor then have an obligation to pay despite there being no consideration given for the promise?
Holding and Rule: Yes. The evidence of Combs’ promise to reimburse P as a gift was admissible. Devecmon was induced to spend money through his reliance Combs’ promise that he would be reimbursed. It was irrelevant that P benefited from spending the money.
Disposition: Reversed and remanded.
Notes: Promissory estoppel requires a promise and reasonable reliance on the part of the other party such that there is a change of position and a detriment is incurred. The doctrine of promissory estoppel is a substitute for legal consideration and is never applicable when consideration is present.