Undertaking – a written promise, pledge, or engagement which binds the signatory to an obligation; unlike a bond, the principal isn’t required to sign

n. (14c)

Broadly, that which one has agreed to do. Technically, an obligation in writing binding the signatories to pay such an amount as shall be adjudged due. General American Industries, Inc. v County Court of Clear Creek County, 136 Colo 86, 316 P2d 565.

Although the essential purpose of an undertaking is the same as that of a bond, and an undertaking with security is in common usage and in the language of the law, a bond, the dissimilarity in terms is fundamental.  An undertaking has to do with amounts to be determined, whereas a bond has to do with liquidated amounts. 12 Am J2d Bonds § 1.

The distinction between a bond and an undertaking is that the principal should sign the former and that he is not required to sign the latter. Russell v Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. 37 Mont 1, 94 P 488, 501. [1]

1. In a contract, a promise by one of the parties.
     Compare mutual promises.

2. A person’s written obligation.  EXAMPLES: a note; a draft.

3. Any promise or pledge.

4 Any venture, particularly a business venture.

5. Any endeavor.

6. The business of a funeral director. [2]

l. A promise, pledge, or engagement.

2. A bail bond. [3]

     Excerpt from Joseph H. Beale Jr.’s Gratuitous Undertakings (1891 ):

     “An undertaking is the entrance of two parties into such relationship as that one party, on account of the bare relationship unaided by any agreement, has a new duty to perform toward the other; he undertakes a new duty. . . . [T]he violation of an undertaking is not a tort, properly so called.  It is a careful and exact use of legal language to call an undertaking a consensual obligation; it is a burden into which the obligor must voluntarily enter. [4]

vb. (13c)

1. To take on an obligation or task <he has undertaken to chair the committee on legal aid for the homeless>.

2. To give a formal promise; guarantee <the merchant undertook that the goods were waterproof>.

3. To act as surety for (another); to make oneself responsible for (a person, fact, or the like) <her husband undertook her appearance in court>. [3]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Joseph H. Beale Jr., Gratuitous Undertakings, 5 Harv. L. Rev. 222, 223-24 (1891 ).


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