General Assumpsit – Breach of (non-written) Promise or Agreement

general assumpsit:

1. An action based on the defendant’s breach of an implied promise to pay a debt to the plaintiff. — aka common assumpsit; indebitatus assumpsit. [1]

1. Assumpsit in the common courts: indebitatus assumpsit, quantum meruit, quantum money paid, and insimul computassent or count on account states.  1 Am J2d Actions § 13. [2]

     Excerpt from Benjamin J. Shipman’s Handbook of Common-Law Pleading (Henry Winthrop Ballantine ed., 3d. 1923):

     “General assumpsit is brought for breach of a fictitious or implied promise raised by law from a debt founded upon an executed consideration. The basis of the action is the promise implied by law from the performance of the consideration, or from a debt or legal duty resting upon the defendant.[3]

     Excerpt from Charles Herman Kinnane’s A First Book of Anglo-American Law (2d ed. 1952):

     “[T]he word ‘assumpsit’ suggest[s] the making of a promise. While that is true in the case of the action of special assumpsit, the promise alleged in the action of general assumpsit was only a fiction. Accordingly in the latter action, the work ‘assumpsit’ no more means that an obligation exists as the result of making a contract, than that a contract is involved because the obligation is described as quasi-contractual.[4]


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[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]: Benjamin J. Shipman, Handbook of Common-Law Pleading § 59, t 153 (Henry Winthrop Ballantine ed., 3d. 1923)

[4]: Charles Herman Kinnane, A First Book of Anglo-American Law 633-34 (2d ed. 1952)


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