The general rule that the promisee may assign any right has some exceptions—for example, when the promisor’s obligation would be materially changed. Of course the contract itself may prohibit assignment, and sometimes statutes preclude it. Knowing how to make the assignment effective and what the consequences of the assignment are on others is worth mastering. When, for example, does the assignee not stand in the assignor’s shoes? When may a future right be assigned?
Duties, as well as rights, may be transferred to third parties. Most rights (promises) contained in contracts have corresponding duties (also expressed as promises). Often when an entire contract is assigned, the duties go with it; the transferee is known, with respect to the duties, as the delegatee. The transferor himself does not necessarily escape the duty, however. Moreover, some duties are nondelegable, such as personal promises and those that public policy require to be carried out by a particular official. Without the ability to assign rights and duties, much of the modern economy would grind to a halt.
The parties to a contract are not necessarily the only people who acquire rights or duties under it. One major category of persons acquiring rights is third-party beneficiaries. Only intended beneficiaries acquire rights under the contract, and these are of two types: creditor and donee beneficiaries. The rules for determining whether rights have been conferred are rather straightforward; determining whether rights can subsequently be modified or extinguished is more troublesome. Generally, as long as the contract does not prohibit change and as long as the beneficiary has not relied on the promise, the change may be made.
Yellow Cab contracted with the Birmingham Board of Education to transport physically handicapped students. The contract provided, “Yellow Cab will transport the physically handicapped students of the School System…and furnish all necessary vehicles and personnel and will perform all maintenance and make all repairs to the equipment to keep it in a safe and efficient operating condition at all times.”
Yellow Cab subcontracted with Metro Limousine to provide transportation in connection with its contract with the board. Thereafter, Metro purchased two buses from Yellow Cab to use in transporting the students. DuPont, a Metro employee, was injured when the brakes on the bus that he was driving failed, causing the bus to collide with a tree. DuPont sued Yellow Cab, alleging that under its contract with the board, Yellow Cab had a nondelegable duty to properly maintain the bus so as to keep it in a safe operating condition; that that duty flowed to him as an intended third-party beneficiary of the contract; and that Yellow Cab had breached the contract by failing to properly maintain the bus. Who wins?DuPont v. Yellow Cab Co. of Birmingham, Inc., 565 So.2d 190 (Ala. 1990).
A creditor beneficiary is
Assignments are not allowed
When an assignor assigns the same interest twice,