Facts of the case
In 1858, William Tweddle and Mary Ann Raby, two young adults, were engaged to be married. William Tweddle’s father, John Tweddle, and Mary Ann’s father, William Guy, signed a written agreement in which they promised to pay a sum of money to the couple. The agreement stated that the money would be paid to Tweddle and Mary upon their marriage.
However, after the marriage, William Guy died without making the payment. Tweddle sued the executor of William’s estate, John Atkinson, to enforce the agreement. Atkinson argued that since he was not a party to the agreement, he was not liable to pay the money.
Tweddle v. Atkinson is a landmark case in English contract law that was decided by the Queen’s Bench in 1861. The case involved a dispute over a promise made by the father of the groom and the father of the bride to pay a sum of money to the couple. The promise was made in consideration of the groom’s marriage to the daughter of the promisor. However, when the father of the groom died, the he failed to pay the promised sum of money to the couple. The groom then sued the executor of the bride’s father estate to recover the money.
The son and daughter of the parties involved in this dispute were getting married. As such, the father of the groom and bride’s father entered into an agreement that they would both pay sums of money to the couple. Regrettably, the father of the bride died before he paid the money to the couple and the father of the son died before he could sue on the agreement between the parties. Thus, the groom brought a claim against the executor of the will for the payment that was previously agreed between the fathers.
John Tweddle and William Guy both agreed to give £l00 and £200, respectively to Tweddle, John’s Son and William Guy’s son-in-law. William Guy passed away before paying the sum and when Mr. Atkinson, William Guy’s estate’s executor refused to pay the sum, William Tweddle sued.
Issue of the Case
The main issue in the case of Tweddle v. Atkinson was whether the groom had the right to sue the executor of Guy’s (father of the bride’s) estate for the promised sum of money.
The groom argued that the promise was made in consideration of his marriage to the promisor’s daughter and that he was a beneficiary of the contract, and therefore had the right to enforce it.
However, the court had to decide whether the groom, as a third-party beneficiary, had the legal standing to sue for the promised sum of money, or whether only the parties to the contract could enforce it.
The court’s verdict established the principle of privity of contract, which limits the ability of third-party beneficiaries to sue to enforce a contract.
Analysis of the Judgement
Atkinson was declared not responsible for making the payment by the court, which found in his favour. The court ruled that because the groom was not a party to the agreement between his father and the promisor, he had no right to sue for the amount of money that had been promised. The groom was only a beneficiary of the contract and could not bring a lawsuit to have it enforced, the court ruled. Only participants to a contract can enforce it.
The court used these justifications to make its ruling. It specified that the party who is qualified to suit on the contract must relocate the consideration. The court used these justifications to make its ruling. It specified that the party who is qualified to suit on the contract must relocate the consideration.
William Tweddle’s claim that he was qualified to pursue the contract as a third-party beneficiary was similarly denied by the court. According to the ruling of the court, a person can only be a third-party beneficiary if they are expressly included in the contract. William was not a party to the contract, so he was unable to enforce its provisions. An agreement neither confers rights on third parties nor places any obligations on them.
One could criticise the decision because it violated both dads’ intentions to make the agreed-upon financial contribution.
The ruling in Tweddle v. Atkinson established the rule that a contract can only be enforced by the parties to it and that a third-party beneficiary has no legal authority to file a lawsuit to do so. The established notion of privity of contract, which is still a crucial idea in contemporary English contract law, was developed.
  EWHC QB J57, 121 ER 762