The existence of the moral obligation principle in American case law has been recognized in the Restatement (Second) of Contracts section 86 (1): "A promise made in recognition of a benefit previously received by the promisor from the promisee is binding to the extent necessary to prevent injustice." Among common law countries, American jurisdictions are unique in recognizing this ameliorating doctrine. An analysis of the development and scope of this doctrine is buried in the centuries of case law surrounding the tension between the past consideration rule and the moral obligation principle. The intent of this study is to glean the meaning of the Restatement Second's fuzzy equitable principle from the evolution of case law on the subject. This article walks through the historical development of this American moral obligation principle, showing how it derived from a few small exceptions to the English past consideration rule.
Kevin M. Teeven,
Origins and Scope of the American Moral Obligation Principle ,
46 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol46/iss4/3