This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
A class of cases in which it is difficult to tell whether the promise imposes any liability upon the adversary party or not, or as is frequently said, whether mutuality exists or not, are cases in which the parties have agreed upon the price, the quality, the time, and the like, but in which the quantity to be furnished is not specified in accordance with the regular standards of weights or measures. In some of these cases, A agrees to furnish whatever quantity B may wish, order, and the like; or A may agree to furnish whatever B may use in his business or whatever he may need or require. A class of cases intermediate between these is where A agrees to furnish whatever B may "want." In all these cases the legal test as to the existence of consideration is the same, although the courts may differ as to the construction of the phraseology of the different contracts and as to the meaning of the parties as evidenced thereby. If, in accordance with the true meaning of the contract, B is free not to take any quantity at all, or he is free to order such quantity as he may see fit to order, B's promise does not impose any legal liability upon him; and, accordingly, B's promise is no consideration for A's promise.1 An agreement by a railroad company to carry, at certain fixed rates, whatever goods of certain kinds the promisee should ship,2 as a promise by. a railroad to carry all the milk and butter,3 or corn;4 or a promise
12 Klostermaan v. United Electric Light & Power Co., 101 Md. 29, 60 Atl. 251.
1 United States. Santaella v. Otto F. Lange Co., 155 Fed. 719, 84 C. C. A. 145.
Alabama. Jones v. Lanier, 184 Ala. 266, 73 So. 535.
Louisiana. Nelson v. Barber, 143 La. 783, 79 So. 403.
Maryland. Parks v. Griffith & Boyd Co., 123 Md. 233, 91 Atl. 581.
Missouri. Hudson v. Browning, 264 Mo. 58, 174 S. W. 393.
Wisconsin. Hoffman v. Maffioli, 104 Wis. 630, 47 L. R. A. 427, 80 N. W. 1032. See also, Rankin v. Mitchem, 141 N. Car. 277, 53 S. E. 854.
2 Wagner v. Meakin, 92 Fed. 76; Chicago, etc., Ry. Co. v. Jones, 53 111. App. 431.
3 Morrow v. Express Co., 101 Ga. 810, 28 S. E. 998 [citing, Burton v. Ry. Co., 9 Exch. 507; Dorsey v. Packwood, 53 U. S. (12 How.) 126, 13 L. ed. 921; Stiles v. McClellan, 6 Colo. 89; McKin-ley v. Watkins, 13 111. 140; Buckingham v. Ludlum, 40 N. J. Eq. 422, 2 Atl. 265; Lester v. Jewett, 12 Barb. (N. Y.) 502; Macedon, etc., Road Co. v. Sned-iker, 18 Barb. (N. Y.) 317; Utica, etc., Ry. Co. v. Brinckerhof, 21 Wend. (N. Y.) 139, 34 Am. Dec. 220; Burnet v. Bisco, 4 Johns. (N. Y.) 235; Keep v. Goodrich, 12 Johns. (N. Y.) 397; Tucker v. Woods, 12 Johns. (N. Y.) 190; Cool v. Cunningham, 25 S. Car. 136].
4 Missouri, etc., Ry. v. Bagley, 60 to transport by ship " any and all of this lumber as may be desired by the parties of the second part";5 or a promise to saw all the timber which the other party should furnish during a certain time,6 is not enforceable.7
Under an agreement whereby A agrees to sell to B at certain rates all the goods of certain kinds that B may order, and B is not bound to order any goods, no consideration for A's promise exists.8 A promise by A to furnish to B all the five-pound jelly-pails that B might "want";9 a contract to furnish to a grocer all the bread that he might require, the grocer to be free to sell another baker's bread if he saw fit, at not less than a certain price;10 a contract by a distilling company to furnish a certain number of cases of whiskey, put up under a private brand for four years, to
Kan. 424, 56 Pac. 759 [citing, Vogel v. Pekoe, 157 111. 339, 30 L. R. A. 491, 42 N. E. 386; Campbell v. Lambert, 36 La. Ann. 35, 51 Am. Rep. 1; Wilkinson v. Heavenrich, 58 Mich. 574, 55 Am. Rep. 708, 26 N. W. 139; Davie v. Lumbermen's Min. Co., 93 Mich. 491, 24 L. R. A. 357, 53 N. W. 625; Stensgaard v. Smith, 43 Minn. 11, 19 Am. St. Rep. 205, 44 N. W. 669; Tucker v. Woods, 12 Johns. (N. Y.) 190, 7 Am. Dec. 305; Dayton W. Valley & X. Turnp. Co. v. Coy, 13 O. S. 84].
5 Dennis v. Slyfield, 117 Fed. 474, 54 C. C. A. 520.
6 Harrison v. Wilson Lumber Co., 119 Ga. 6, 45 S. E. 730.
7 Contra, where A's schooner was aground and A agreed to hire two barges, and to pay five dollars an hour for B's tug if he needed it, and B agreed to keep steam up all night ready for service if necessary, the contract was held binding. Nott v. Johnson, 7 O. S. 270. But it seems that A had in reliance on B's promise and as part of the arrangement promised to be responsible for damages to the barges, and B did not notify A of his revocation of his offer, but left him on a lee shore in a storm without notice, by which ship and barges were lost.
8 United States. American Cottona company engaged in buying whiskey from distillers and selling it to the general trade, the vendee to be released for such part of said whiskey as it finds that it can not use, the brand not being an established brand and it being impossible to fix the quantity of whiskey necessary to supply the demand;11 a promise to furnish "all of the boot and shoe packs which the defendant should require of them in his business";12 or a promise to deliver stone "in such quantities as may be desired,"13 none of them impose liability upon the promisee, and do not amount to contracts, at least, until the offeree has accepted such offer by ordering certain goods thereunder. The fact that A's promise to sell such goods as B might order is conditioned upon A's having such goods in stock when B's order is received, does not render A's promise enforceable.14 An agreement whereby B agrees to buy goods of a certain quality from A at a certain price, but A is free to sell such goods to B or not, does not amount to a contract,15 such as a promise whereby A agrees to order extra parts to machines from B, but B is not to be liable for failure to furnish extras.16 Such promises are clearly only offers, which may be accepted by ordering the property or services specified in the offer at any time before it is withdrawn, and thus making a contract as to such order,17 but which may be
Oil Co. v. Kirk, 68 Fed. 791, 15 C. C. A. 540; Crane v. Crane, 105 Fed. 869, 45 C. C. A. 96; Cold Blast Transportation Co. v. Nut Co., 114 Fed. 77, 57 L. R. A. 696, 52 C. C. A. 25; Santaella v. Otto F. Lange Co., 155 Fed. 719, 84 C. C. A. 145; T. B. Walker Mfg. Co. v. Swift, 200 Fed. 529.
Georgia. Huggins v. Southeastern Lime & Cement Co., 121 Ga. 311, 48 S. E. 933.
Illinois. Higbie v. Rust, 211 III. 333, 71 N. E. 1010; American Refrigerator Transit Co. v. Chilton, 94 111. App. 6.
Iowa. Drake v. Vorse, 52 la. 417, 3 N. W. 465.
Kentucky. Rehm-Zeiher Co. v. F. G. Walker Co., 156 Ky. 6, 49 L. R. A. (N.S.) 694, 160 S. W. 777.
Louisiana. Nelson v. Barber, 143 La. 783, 79 So. 403; Campbell v. Lambert, 36 La. Ann.'35, 51 Am. Rep. 1.
Minnesota. Bailey v. Austrian, 19 Minn. 535.
Wisconsin. Hoffman v. Maffioli, 104 Wis. 630, 47 L. R. A. 427, 80 N. W. 1032; Teipel v. Meyer, 106 Wis. 41, 81 N. W. 982.
9Higbie v. Rust, 211 111. 333, 71 N. E. 1010.
10 Nelson v. Barber, 143 La. 783, 70 So. 403.
11 Rehm-Zeiher Co. v. F. G. Walker Co., 156 Ky. 6, 49 L. R. A. (N.S.) 694, 160 S. W. 777.
12 Tarbox v. Gotzian, 20 Minn. 139. 13 Hoffman v. Maffioli, 104 Wis. 630,
47 L. R. A. 427, 80 N. W. 1032.
14 Las Palmas Winery & Distillery v. Garrett, 167 Cal. 397, 139 Pac. 1077.
15 Hudson v. Browning, 264 Mo. 58, 174 S. W. 393.
16 Harvester King Co. v. Mitchell, etc., Co., 89 Fed. 173.
17 United States. Storm v. United States, 94 U. S. 76, 24 L. ed. 42; Wheeler, etc., Mfg. Co. v. Lyon, 71 Fed. 374; Johnson v. Staenglen, 85 Fed. 603; Wilson v. Steam Boiler Co., 105 Fed. 846.
California. Los Angeles Traction Co. v. Wilshire, 135 Cal. 654, 67 Pac. 1086.
Georgia. Huggins v. Southeastern Lime & Cement Co., 121 Ga. 311, 48 S. E. 933; Buick Motor Co. v. Thompson, 138 Ga. 282, 75 S. E. 354.
Iowa. Muscatine Water Co. v. Lumber Co., 85 la. 112, 39 Am. St. Rep. 284, 52 N. W. 108.
Kentucky. Allen v. Gas Co. (Ky.), 73 S. W. 747.
Massachusetts. Train v. Gold, 22 Mass. (5 Pick.) 380.
Michigan. Welch v. Whelpley, 62 Mich. 15, 4 Am. St. Rep. 810, 28 N. W. 744; Wardell v. Williams, 62 Mich. 50, 4 Am. St. Rep. 814, 28 N. W. 796; Cooper v. Wheel Co., 94 Mich. 272, 34 Am. St. Rep. 341, 54 N. W. 39.
Minnesota. Potter v. Holmes, 72 Minn. 153, 75 N. W. 591.
New Jersey. Atlantic Pebble Co. v. Lehigh Valley R. Co. (N. J. L.), 98 Atl. 410.
New York. Willetts v. Ins. Co., 45 N. Y. 45, 6 Am. Rep. 31; White v. Baxter, 71 N. Y. 254; Marie v. Garrison, 83 N. Y. 14.
Ohio. Herrick v. Wardwell, 58 O. S. 294, 50 N. E. 903.
A contract which is conditioned upon the operation of natural causes and not upon the option of one party, is valid.19 A provision for extending time for performance in the event of certain specified causes of delay,20 or for continuing the contract in force at the election of one party after default by the other,21 does not render the contract invalid as lacking mutuality.