Harrington v. Taylor

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Harrington v. Taylor
Court North Carolina Supreme Court
Citation 36 S.E.2d. 227 (1945); 40 S.E.2d 367 (1946)
Date decided November 1, 1946


An abused wife swings an axe at her husband. When her friend intervenes to stop the violence, the friend's hand gets chopped.

  • Taylor = defendant = husband
  • Ms. Harrington = plaintiff = friend = savior
  • After the life-threatening dust-up, Taylor orally promised to pay damages to the injured Harrington. So, he paid her a paltry sum but nothing more despite the oral promise.

Procedural History

Harrington sued to claim the full damages promised to her by Taylor (violent husband).

Harrington lost because the trial court stated that she hadn't stated a cause of action.


Can voluntarily saving someone from serious harm constitute consideration sufficient to create a binding contract?


No. There was no consideration between Harrington (savior) & Taylor (beating husband). Thus, there was no contract.


Per curiam: Harrington voluntarily stuck her hand out in front of the ax. It was a humanitarian act, resulting from a split-second decision to protect Taylor.


According to the North Carolina court in 1946, a voluntary humanitarian act doesn't constitute sufficient consideration to support a contract.

Be advised that other courts have issued opinions at odds with this holding; for instance, see Webb v. McGowin, 1935 ; however, Mills v. Wyman, 1825 yielded harsh results for the benefactor.