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.
In Massachusetts the beneficiary was actually allowed to sue, in several of the earlier cases,1 and language was used which indicated that C should be permitted to sue whenever A and B intended A's promise for the benefit of C.2 In subsequent cases, however, this general language was disapproved, and it was held that as a general rule C could not sue;3 that the cases in which C had been permitted to sue fell within one of the recognized exceptions to the rule; and that the rule would not be extended further than the existing recognized exceptions.4 The exceptions to the general rule that the beneficiary could not sue, which were recognized by the courts in these cases,5 were as follows: (1) cases in which B has placed money in A's hands for the benefit of C;6 (2) cases in which C is a near relation of B's;7 and (3) cases in which the assignee of a lease has covenanted to pay the rent which is due to the lessor.8 Accordingly, it has been held that if A assumes and agrees to pay a mortgage which is due from his grantor, B, to C, C can not maintain an action against A upon such promise.9 If B sends goods to A with a draft in favor of C, and A promises to accept such draft when the bill of lading arrives, C can not maintain an action against A upon such promise.10 If B, to whom an insurance policy has been assigned when he acquired the realty covered thereby, assigns such policy to the mortgagee, A, under an agreement by which the surplus is to be paid to C, and A collects such policy, it has been held that C could not bring an action against A upon such contract, and that accordingly X could not attach the surplus of such policy in A's hands in an attachment proceeding against C.11
5 Cooper v. Claxton, 122 Ga. 596, 50 S. E. 399.
1 Felton v. Dickinson, 10 Mass. 287; Arnold v. Lyman, 17 Mass. 400; Felch v. Taylor, 30 Mass. (13 Pick.) 133; Brewer v. Dyer, 61 Mass. (7 Cush.) 337; Frost v. Gage, 83 Mass. (1 All.) 262; Putnam v. Field, 103 Mass. 556.
2 Carnegie v. Morrison, 43 Mass. (2 Met.) 381; Brewer v. Dyer, 61 Mass. (7 Cush.) 337.
3 Mellen v. Whipple. 67 Mass. (1 Gray) 317; Exchange Bank v. Rice, 107 Mass. 37, 9 Am. Rep. 1.
4 "We are disinclined to any extension of that anomalous doctrine beyond the decisions which have heretofore been made." Field v. Crawford, 72 Mass. (6 Gray) 116.
5 Mellen v. Whipple, 67 Mass. (1 Gray) 317; Exchange Bank v. Rice, 107 Mass. 37, 9 Am. Rep. 7
6 Carnegie v. Morrison. 43 Mass. (2 Met. 381; Arnold v. Lyman, 17 Mass. 400; Felch v. Taylor, 30 Mass. (13 Pick.) 133: Frost v. Gage. 83.Mass. (1 All.) 262; Putnam v. Field, 103 Mass. 556.
7 Felton v. Dickinson. 10 Mass. 287.
8 Brewer v. Dyer, 6l Mass. (7 Cush.) 337.
9 Mellen v. Whipple, 67 Mass. (1 Gray) 317.
10 Exchange Bank v. Rice, 107 Mass. 37, 9 Am. Rep. 1.
In this form of the rule we have an arbitrary rule modified by a number of arbitrary exceptions quite free from any underlying principle. The inconsistency of the rule in this form has apparently been recognized by the Massachusetts courts in a case in which A promised to B to pay a certain sum of money in trust for B's son, C, in consideration of B's naming such child after A.12 It was held that C could enforce such promise against A, but rather than explain it as an exception to the general rule growing out of the near relationship between B and C, the court preferred to explain it on the theory that B was the agent of C for the purpose of making such contract and of selecting a name for C.13