A disputed debt arises where the parties did agree on (liquidated) the price or fee but subsequently get into a dispute about its fairness, and then settle. When this dispute is settled, the parties have given consideration to an agreement to accept a fixed sum as payment for the amount due. Assume that in the gallbladder case the patient agrees in advance to pay $8,000. Eight months after the operation and as a result of nausea and vomiting spells, the patient undergoes a second operation; the surgeons discover a surgical sponge embedded in the patient’s intestine. The patient refuses to pay the full sum of the original surgeon’s bill; they settle on $6,000, which the patient pays. This is a binding agreement because subsequent facts arose to make legitimate the patient’s quarrel over his obligation to pay the full bill. As long as the dispute is based in fact and is not trumped up, as long as the promisee is acting in good faith, then consideration is present when a disputed debt is settled.
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Settling a Disputed Debt