Fiege v. Boehm

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Fiege v. Boehm
Court Maryland Court of Appeals
Citation 123 A.2d 316
Date decided June 18, 1956


In the 1950s, it was very un-common and frowned-upon for a child to be born out of wedlock. In these times and environs, Maryland has Bastardy statutes.

Ms. Boehm ("Boehm") & Mr. Fiege ("Fiege") went on a movie date; it turned out later, that Ms. Boehm was pregnant. Both were un-married.

Informally, Fiedge (man) agreed to pay for the child-related expenses of Boehm (woman) if the woman agreed not to inititate bastardy proceedings against the man. He paid her $480 (about $5,400 in 2024).

However, the man later learned

  • Fiege = man = plaintiff = blood type O
  • Boehm = woman = defendant = blood type B
  • infant = blood type A
Fiege stopped paying Boehm.

Procedural History

Boehm instituted bastardy proceedings against Fiege in Maryland criminal court. Moreover, she sued him for breach of contract.

The criminal court found that Fiege couldn't have been the child's father. Fiege won in the criminal court.

The Superior Court of Baltimore City (civil court), nonetheless, instructed the jury that the civil court wasn't bound by the criminal acquittal. So, in this civil court, the jury found in favor of Boehm (= woman) irrespective of the criminal court finding. The jury awarded Boehm $2,400. Fiege appealed the finding of the civil court to the court of appeals of Maryland.


Does forbearance to prosecute a criminal claim that is believed to be well founded constitute adequate consideration for a contract?


Refraining from prosecuting a claim believed to be well-founded could constitute adequate consideration, even if the claim later turns out to have no basis in fact.

Holding is in favor of Boehm (woman); her claim was sincere.


Affirmed the award of the civil court in Boehm's favor


Judge Delaplaine: In states with statutes compelling father to support children born out of wedlock, courts held that a mother's agreement not to prosecute in exchange for promise of assistance was supported by consideration.

If a father didn't support illegitimate children, then the financial burden would fall on the public. Since the vast majority of women in the 1950s didn't have full-time employment, the public interest dictated for a putative father to pick up the tab.


In the 1950s, Maryland's bastardy laws required mothers of bastards to receive payments from the fathers. These state laws may still be the same in the 2020s regardless of the economic power of women in the 2020s.

In 1963, the "best interests of children" became a newer standard in Maryland in lieu of the individual rights of mothers.