Details of an Assumpsit

In an assumpsit, one party enters a contract to fulfill obligations on behalf of another party. It is a binding feature of common law. Common law is a set of unwritten laws formed from judicial opinion. Courts use these laws to help them make decisions in other similar cases. There are two main types of assumpsit: express assumpsit and the implied assumpsit.

In an express assumpsit, promises are formal and are made through word of mouth and written documents. An individual promises to fulfill an obligation or make timely payments (whichever scenario applies).

Unlike the express assumpsit, the implied variation isn't that smooth sailing. However, it's easily understandable. As the name suggests, an implied assumpsit is a scenario whereby one party makes an implied promise due to several dealings and circumstances. Although there's no formal promise here, it's up to the involved party to assume actions binding that particular dealing.

Assumpsit Example

Jennifer is leaving town for a week and has entrusted Carrie with her cat. Carrie, since she willingly allowed the cat to stay in her home while Jennifer is gone, is officially part of an express assumpsit. It is express because Carrie said, "I will take care of your cat while you are gone."

Unfortunately, the cat injures itself while jumping from Carrie's table to the floor. Carrie does not tell Jennifer, nor does she take the cat to the vet for care. When Jennifer returns, she is understandably upset. She takes Carrie to court and the judge rules in Jennifer's favor. Under the express assumpsit, Carrie was supposed to take care of the cat—which she did not.

Significance of an Assumpsit

As we've established, you can use the assumpsit to recover damages resulting from a contract breach. So, for example, if a plaintiff has lost money due to not receiving money borrowed and offering services not paid for, he/she can easily sue the defendant as long as there was a contract in the mix.

Here, it doesn't matter if the contract was expressed or implied in nature. The plaintiff is bound to receive compensation both ways. Overall, the assumpsit is encompassing as this "legal action" is binding to all contract forms.

History of Assumpsit

The assumpsit came to the fore of common law in ancient England in the 14th century. During this period, the amicable settlement of disputes was left to the discretion of the royal courts. This was a clear deviation of proceedings in the 13th century where the King had the sole responsibility of settling cases amongst noblemen. Here, the King didn't judge matters that were considered private.

Consequently, as trade-related activities began to gain steady traction in ancient England, cases of contract breaches, debts, and the assumpsit became the order of the day. The royal courts settled these lawsuits at that time. For instance, before the close of the 14th century, a recorded assumpsit case involved the death of a horse. Here, the plaintiff filed a complaint against the defendant, who was likened to be a veterinarian.

The plaintiff filed this legal suit upon discovery that the death of their horse was mainly due to the defendant's negligence. This is a clear assumpsit case as the defendant who shouldered the responsibility of curing the horse didn't meet expectations. However, you might want to note that unlike the current variations of the assumpsit, this legal action in the past was only valid when there was a formal contract (written) in place.