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Donee Beneficiary

15 January, 2016 - 09:33

The second type of intended beneficiary is a donee beneficiary. When the promisee is not indebted to the third person but intends for him or her to have the benefit of the promisor’s performance, the third person is a donee beneficiary (and the promise is sometimes called a gift promise). For example, an insurance company (the promisor) promises to its policyholder (the promisee), in return for a premium, to pay $100,000 to his wife on his death; this makes the wife a donee beneficiary (see Figure 14.1). The wife could sue to enforce the contract although she was not a party to it. Or if Able makes a contract with Woodsman for the latter to cut the trees in Able’s backyard as a Christmas gift to Able’s uphill Neighbor (so that Neighbor will have a view), Neighbor could sue Woodsman for breach of the contract.

If a person is not an intended beneficiary—not a creditor or donee beneficiary—then he or she is said to be only an incidental beneficiary, and that person has no rights. So if Able makes the contract with Woodsman not to benefit Neighbor but for Able’s own benefit, the fact that the tree removal would benefit Neighbor does not make Neighbor an intended beneficiary.

The beneficiary’s rights are always limited by the terms of the contract. A failure by the promisee to perform his part of the bargain will terminate the beneficiary’s rights if the promisee’s lapse terminates his own rights, absent language in the contract to the contrary. If Able makes the contract as a gift to Neighbor but doesn’t make the required down payment to Woodsman, Neighbor’s claim fails. In a suit by the beneficiary, the promisor may avail himself of any defense he could have asserted against the promisee. Woodsman may defend himself against Neighbor’s claim that Woodsman did not do the whole job by showing that Able didn’t make full payment for the work.