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Williams v Roffey Bros [1990]

Facts

  • Williams, a subcontractor, was contracted to do carpentry work for Roffey Bros, the main contractor responsible for building a block of flats
  • Williams ran into financial difficulty, and Roffey Bros promised more money for the work
  • Completion allowed Roffey Bros to avoid a penalty clause for late completion of the block of flats
  • Roffey Bros refused to pay the extra promised amount

Issue

  • Had consideration been provided for Roffey’s Bros to pay extra, as according to Stilk v Myrick [1809], there is no consideration in extra payment for performing an existing duty

Decision

  • Yes, claim allowed

Reasoning

  • If there is no economic duress or fraud involved, consideration can be provided for the promise to pay more for an existing duty if the promisor obtains a practical benefit for paying more
  • In this case, avoiding a penalty clause was a practical benefit for the promisor, Roffey Bros
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