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I. A. Grounds for Enforcing Promises
  • 1 I. A. 1. Formality

    • 1.1 Congregation Kadimah Toras-Moshe v. DeLeo

      1
      405 Mass. 365 (1989)
      2
      540 N.E.2d 691
      3
      CONGREGATION KADIMAH TORAS-MOSHE
      vs.
      ROBERT A. DeLEO, administrator.[1]
      4

      Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.

      5
      March 7, 1989.
      6
      July 11, 1989.
      7

      Present: LIACOS, C.J., WILKINS, ABRAMS, LYNCH, & O'CONNOR, JJ.

      8

      Andrew M. Fischer for the plaintiff.

      9

      Ralph R. Bagley for the defendant.

      10
      LIACOS, C.J.
      11

      Congregation Kadimah Toras-Moshe (Congregation), an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, commenced this action in the Superior Court to compel the administrator of an estate (estate) to fulfil the oral promise of the decedent to give the Congregation $25,000. The Superior Court transferred the case to the Boston Municipal Court, which rendered summary judgment for the estate. The case was then transferred back to the Superior Court, which also rendered summary judgment for the estate and dismissed the Congregation's complaint. We granted the Congregation's application for direct appellate review. We now affirm.

      12

      [366] The facts are not contested. The decedent suffered a prolonged illness, throughout which he was visited by the Congregation's spiritual leader, Rabbi Abraham Halbfinger. During four or five of these visits, and in the presence of witnesses, the decedent made an oral promise to give the Congregation $25,000. The Congregation planned to use the $25,000 to transform a storage room in the synagogue into a library named after the decedent. The oral promise was never reduced to writing. The decedent died intestate in September, 1985. He had no children, but was survived by his wife.

      13

      The Congregation asserts that the decedent's oral promise is an enforceable contract under our case law, because the promise is allegedly supported either by consideration and bargain, or by reliance. See Loranger Constr. Corp. v. E.F. Hauserman Co., 376 Mass. 757, 761, 763 (1978) (distinguishing consideration and bargain from reliance in the absence of consideration). We disagree.

      14

      The Superior Court judge determined that "[t]his was an oral gratuitous pledge, with no indication as to how the money should be used, or what [the Congregation] was required to do if anything in return for this promise." There was no legal benefit to the promisor nor detriment to the promisee, and thus no consideration. See Marine Contractors Co. v. Hurley, 365 Mass. 280, 286 (1974); Gishen v. Dura Corp., 362 Mass. 177, 186 (1972) (moral obligation is not legal obligation). Furthermore, there is no evidence in the record that the Congregation's plans to name a library after the decedent induced him to make or to renew his promise. Contrast Allegheny College v. National Chautauqua County Bank, 246 N.Y. 369, 377-379 (1927) (subscriber's promise became binding when charity implicitly promised to commemorate subscriber).

      15

      As to the lack of reliance, the judge stated that the Congregation's "allocation of $25,000 in its budget[,] for the purpose of renovating a storage room, is insufficient to find reliance or an enforceable obligation." We agree. The inclusion of the promised $25,000 in the budget, by itself, merely reduced to writing the Congregation's expectation that it would have additional funds. A hope or expectation, even though well founded, is [367] not equivalent to either legal detriment or reliance.[2] Hall v. Horton House Microwave, Inc., 24 Mass. App. Ct. 84, 94 (1987).

      16

      The Congregation cites several of our cases in which charitable subscriptions were enforced. These cases are distinguishable because they involved written, as distinguished from oral, promises and also involved substantial consideration or reliance. See, e.g., Trustees of Amherst Academy v. Cowls, 6 Pick. 427, 434 (1828) (subscribers to written agreement could not withdraw "after the execution or during the progress of the work which they themselves set in motion"); Trustees of Farmington Academy v. Allen, 14 Mass. 172, 176 (1817) (trustees justifiably "proceed[ed] to incur expense, on the faith of the defendant's subscription").[3] Conversely, in the case of Cottage St. Methodist Episcopal Church v. Kendall, 121 Mass. 528 [368] (1877), we refused to enforce a promise in favor of a charity where there was no showing of any consideration or reliance.

      17

      The Congregation asks us to abandon the requirement of consideration or reliance in the case of charitable subscriptions. The Congregation cites the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 90 (1981), which provides, in subsection (2): "A charitable subscription ... is binding under Subsection (1) without proof that the promise induced action or forbearance." Subsection (1), as modified in pertinent part by subsection (2), provides: "A promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance on the part of the promisee or a third person ... is binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise...."

      18

      Assuming without deciding that this court would apply § 90, we are of the opinion that in this case there is no injustice in declining to enforce the decedent's promise. Although § 90 dispenses with the absolute requirement of consideration or reliance, the official comments illustrate that these are relevant considerations. Restatement (Second) of Contracts, supra at § 90 comment f. The promise to the Congregation is entirely unsupported by consideration or reliance.[4] Furthermore, it is an oral promise sought to be enforced against an estate. To enforce such a promise would be against public policy.[5]

      19

      Judgment affirmed.

      20

      [1] Of the estate of Saul Schwam.

      21

      [2] "We do not use the expression `promissory estoppel,' since it tends to confusion rather than clarity." Loranger Constr. Corp. v. E.F. Hauserman Co., 376 Mass. 757, 761 (1978).

      22

      [3]The Congregation cites two cases for the proposition that Massachusetts requires so little consideration or reliance that, in practice, none is required. The Congregation misconstrues each case.

      23

      The Congregation interprets this court's opinion in Robinson v. Nutt, 185 Mass. 345 (1904), to state the principle that the promises of several subscribers to donate funds are interdependent, that each promise is "consideration" or "reliance" for the other, and that each subscription is therefore an enforceable contract. This interpretation is neither the reasoning of the case nor good law in Massachusetts. The court in Robinson decided that the financial duties imposed on the charity therein, and adhered to by the charity for five years, were consideration for the promised funds. Id. at 348-349. The principle to which the Congregation refers, on the other hand, had been repudiated by this court in Cottage St. Methodist Episcopal Church v. Kendall, 121 Mass. 528, 530 (1877).

      24

      The second case cited by the Congregation, In re Morton Shoe Co., 40 Bankr. 948 (D. Mass. 1984), is not controlling, and is in any event distinguishable. That case involved an organized campaign of solicitation and significant reliance by the charity therein. "After the pledge drive, [the charity] establishe[d] an operating budget, determine[d] the amount of and recipients of distributions, and hire[d] personnel. In addition, based on the estimated amount of subscriptions, [the charity] borrow[ed] money from banks so that it [could] make immediate distributions to recipients before obtaining the actual pledge amount." Id. at 949. Thus, even assuming this case to have some precedential value, it demonstrates the need for reliance or consideration, not the opposite.

      25

      [4] We need not decide whether we would enforce an oral promise where there was a showing of consideration or reliance.

      26

      [5] The defendant argues that, if the decedent was aware of impending death, yet made no gift during life, then the promise is in the nature of a promise to make a will, which is unenforceable, by virtue of the Statute of Frauds. See G.L.c. 259, §§ 5, 5A (1986 ed.). Under the view we take, we need not consider this argument.

  • 2 I. A. 2. Bargain

    • 2.1 Hamer v. Sidway

      1

      124 N.Y. 538

      2
      Louisa W. Hamer, Appellant,
      v.
      Franklin Sidway, as Executor, etc., Respondent.
      3


      Court of Appeals of New York.
      Argued February 24, 1981.
      Decided April 14, 1891.

      4

      [544] OPINION OF THE COURT

      5

      PARKER, J. The question which provoked the most discussion by counsel on this appeal, and which lies at the foundation of plaintiff's asserted right of recovery, is whether by virtue of a contract defendant's testator William E. Story became indebted to his nephew William E. Story, 2d, on his twenty-first birthday in the sum of five thousand dollars. The trial court found as a fact that “on the 20th day of March, 1869, . . . William E. Story agreed to and with William E. [545] Story, 2d, that if he would refrain from drinking liquor, using tobacco, swearing, and playing cards or billiards for money until he should become 21 years of age then he, the said William E. Story, would at that time pay him, the said William E. Story, 2d, the sum of $5,000 for such refraining, to which the said William E. Story, 2d, agreed,” and that he “in all things fully performed his part of said agreement.”

      6

      The defendant contends that the contract was without consideration to support it, and, therefore, invalid. He asserts that the promisee by refraining from the use of liquor and tobacco was not harmed but benefited; that that which he did was best for him to do independently of his uncle's promise, and insists that it follows that unless the promisor was benefited, the contract was without consideration. A contention, which if well founded, would seem to leave open for controversy in many cases whether that which the promisee did or omitted to do was, in fact, of such benefit to him as to leave no consideration to support the enforcement of the promisor's agreement. Such a rule could not be tolerated, and is without foundation in the law. The Exchequer Chamber, in 1875, defined consideration as follows: “A valuable consideration in the sense of the law may consist either in some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to the one party, or some forbearance, detriment, loss or responsibility given, suffered or undertaken by the other.” Courts

      7

      “will not ask whether the thing which forms the consideration does in fact benefit the promisee or a third party, or is of any substantial value to anyone. It is enough that something is promised, done, forborne or suffered by the party to whom the promise is made as consideration for the promise made to him.”

      8

      (Anson's Prin. of Con. 63.)

      9

      “In general a waiver of any legal right at the request of another party is a sufficient consideration for a promise.” (Parsons on Contracts, 444.)

      10

      “Any damage, or suspension, or forbearance of a right will be sufficient to sustain a promise.” (Kent, vol. 2, 465, 12th ed.)

      11

      Pollock, in his work on contracts, page 166, after citing the definition given by the Exchequer Chamber already quoted, [546] says:

      12

      “The second branch of this judicial description is really the most important one. Consideration means not so much that one party is profiting as that the other abandons some legal right in the present or limits his legal freedom of action in the future as an inducement for the promise of the first.”

      13

      Now, applying this rule to the facts before us, the promisee used tobacco, occasionally drank liquor, and he had a legal right to do so. That right he abandoned for a period of years upon the strength of the promise of the testator that for such forbearance he would give him $5,000. We need not speculate on the effort which may have been required to give up the use of those stimulants. It is sufficient that he restricted his lawful freedom of action within certain prescribed limits upon the faith of his uncle's agreement, and now having fully performed the conditions imposed, it is of no moment whether such performance actually proved a benefit to the promisor, and the court will not inquire into it, but were it a proper subject of inquiry, we see nothing in this record that would permit a determination that the uncle was not benefited in a legal sense. Few cases have been found which may be said to be precisely in point, but such as have been support the position we have taken.

      14

      In Shadwell v. Shadwell (9 C. B. [N. S.] 159), an uncle wrote to his nephew as follows:

      15

      "MY DEAR LANCEY — I am so glad to hear of your intended marriage with Ellen Nicholl, and as I promised to assist you at starting, I am happy to tell you that I will pay to you 150 pounds yearly during my life and until your annual income derived from your profession of a chancery barrister shall amount to 600 guineas, of which your own admission will be the only evidence that I shall require.

      “Your affectionate uncle,
      “CHARLES SHADWELL.”

      16

      It was held that the promise was binding and made upon good consideration.

      17

      [547] In Lakota v. Newton, an unreported case in the Superior Court of Worcester, Mass., the complaint averred defendant's promise that “if you (meaning plaintiff) will leave off drinking for a year I will give you $100,” plaintiff's assent thereto, performance of the condition by him, and demanded judgment therefor. Defendant demurred on the ground, among others, that the plaintiff's declaration did not allege a valid and sufficient consideration for the agreement of the defendant. The demurrer was overruled.

      18

      In Talbott v. Stemmons (a Kentucky case not yet reported), the step- grandmother of the plaintiff made with him the following agreement: “I do promise and bind myself to give my grandson, Albert R. Talbott, $500 at my death, if he will never take another chew of tobacco or smoke another cigar during my life from this date up to my death, and if he breaks this pledge he is to refund double the amount to his mother.” The executor of Mrs. Stemmons demurred to the complaint on the ground that the agreement was not based on a sufficient consideration. The demurrer was sustained and an appeal taken therefrom to the Court of Appeals, where the decision of the court below was reversed. In the opinion of the court it is said that

      19

      “the right to use and enjoy the use of tobacco was a right that belonged to the plaintiff and not forbidden by law. The abandonment of its use may have saved him money or contributed to his health, nevertheless, the surrender of that right caused the promise, and having the right to contract with reference to the subject-matter, the abandonment of the use was a sufficient consideration to uphold the promise.”

      20

      Abstinence from the use of intoxicating liquors was held to furnish a good consideration for a promissory note in Lindell v. Rokes (60 Mo. 249).

      21

      The cases cited by the defendant on this question are not in point. In Mallory v. Gillett (21 N. Y. 412); Belknap v. Bender (75 id. 446), and Berry v. Brown (107 id. 659), the promise was in contravention of that provision of the Statute of Frauds, which declares void all promises to answer for the debts of third persons unless reduced to writing. In Beau [548] mont v. Reeve (Shirley's L. C. 6), and Porterfield v. Butler (47 Miss. 165), the question was whether a moral obligation furnishes sufficient consideration to uphold a subsequent express promise. In Duvoll v. Wilson (9 Barb. 487), and In re Wilber v. Warren (104 N. Y. 192), the proposition involved was whether an executory covenant against incumbrances in a deed given in consideration of natural love and affection could be enforced. In Vanderbilt v. Schreyer (91 N. Y. 392), the plaintiff contracted with defendant to build a house, agreeing to accept in part payment therefor a specific bond and mortgage. Afterwards he refused to finish his contract unless the defendant would guarantee its payment, which was done. It was held that the guarantee could not be enforced for want of consideration. For in building the house the plaintiff only did that which he had contracted to do. And in Robinson v. Jewett (116 N. Y. 40), the court simply held that “The performance of an act which the party is under a legal obligation to perform cannot constitute a consideration for a new contract.” It will be observed that the agreement which we have been considering was within the condemnation of the Statute of Frauds, because not to be performed within a year, and not in writing. But this defense the promisor could waive, and his letter and oral statements subsequent to the date of final performance on the part of the promisee must be held to amount to a waiver. Were it otherwise, the statute could not now be invoked in aid of the defendant. It does not appear on the face of the complaint that the agreement is one prohibited by the Statute of Frauds, and, therefore, such defense could not be made available unless set up in the answer. (Porter v. Wormser, 94 N. Y. 431, 450.) This was not done.

      22

      In further consideration of the questions presented, then, it must be deemed established for the purposes of this appeal, that on the 31st day of January, 1875, defendant's testator was indebted to William E. Story, 2d, in the sum of $5,000, and if this action were founded on that contract it would be barred by the Statute of Limitations which has been pleaded, but on that date the nephew wrote to his uncle as follows:

      23

      [549] “DEAR UNCLE—I am now 21 years old to-day, and I am now my own boss, and I believe, according to agreement, that there is due me $5,000. I have lived up to the contract to the letter in every sense of the word."

      24

      A few days later, and on February sixth, the uncle replied, and, so far as it is material to this controversy, the reply is as follows:

      25

      "DEAR NEPHEW—Your letter of the 31st ult. came to hand all right saying that you had lived up to the promise made to me several years ago. I have no doubt but you have, for which you shall have $5,000 as I promised you. I had the money in the bank the day you was 21 years old that I intended for you, and you shall have the money certain. Now, Willie, I don't intend to interfere with this money in any way until I think you are capable of taking care of it, and the sooner that time comes the better it will please me. I would hate very much to have you start out in some adventure that you thought all right and lose this money in one year. . . . This money you have earned much easier than I did, besides acquiring good habits at the same time, and you are quite welcome to the money. Hope you will make good use of it. . . .

      W. E. STORY.
      P. S.—You can consider this money on interest.”

      26

      The trial court found as a fact that “said letter was received by said William E. Story, 2d, who thereafter consented that said money should remain with the said William E. Story in accordance with the terms and conditions of said letter.”

      27

      And further,

      28

      “That afterwards, on the first day of March, 1877, with the knowledge and consent of his said uncle, he duly sold, transferred and assigned all his right, title and interest in and to said sum of $5,000 to his wife Libbie H. Story, who thereafter duly sold, transferred and assigned the same to the plaintiff in this action.”

      29

      We must now consider the effect of the letter, and the nephew's assent thereto. Were the relations of the parties thereafter that of debtor and creditor simply, or that of trustee [550] and cestui que trust? If the former, then this action is not maintainable, because barred by lapse of time. If the latter, the result must be otherwise. No particular expressions are necessary to create a trust. Any language clearly showing the settler's intention is sufficient if the property and disposition of it are definitely stated. (Lewin on Trusts, 55.)

      30

      A person in the legal possession of money or property acknowledging a trust with the assent of the cestui que trust, becomes from that time a trustee if the acknowledgment be founded on a valuable consideration. His antecedent relation to the subject, whatever it may have been, no longer controls. (2 Story's Eq. §972.) If before a declaration of trust a party be a mere debtor, a subsequent agreement recognizing the fund as already in his hands and stipulating for its investment on the creditor's account will have the effect to create a trust. (Day v. Roth, 18 N. Y. 448.)

      31

      It is essential that the letter interpreted in the light of surrounding circumstances must show an intention on the part of the uncle to become a trustee before he will be held to have become such; but in an effort to ascertain the construction which should be given to it, we are also to observe the rule that the language of the promisor is to be interpreted in the sense in which he had reason to suppose it was understood by the promisee. (White v. Hoyt, 73 N. Y. 505, 511.) At the time the uncle wrote the letter he was indebted to his nephew in the sum of $5,000, and payment had been requested. The uncle recognizing the indebtedness, wrote the nephew that he would keep the money until he deemed him capable of taking care of it. He did not say “I will pay you at some other time,” or use language that would indicate that the relation of debtor and creditor would continue. On the contrary, his language indicated that he had set apart the money the nephew had 'earned' for him so that when he should be capable of taking care of it he should receive it with interest. He said: “I had the money in the bank the day you were 21 years old that I intended for you and you shall have the money certain.” That he had set apart the money is further [551] evidenced by the next sentence: “Now, Willie, I don't intend to interfere with this money in any way until I think you are capable of taking care of it.” Certainly, the uncle must have intended that his nephew should understand that the promise not “to interfere with this money” referred to the money in the bank which he declared was not only there when the nephew became 21 years old, but was intended for him. True, he did not use the word “trust,” or state that the money was deposited in the name of William E. Story, 2d, or in his own name in trust for him, but the language used must have been intended to assure the nephew that his money had been set apart for him, to be kept without interference until he should be capable of taking care of it, for the uncle said in substance and in effect:

      32

      “This money you have earned much easier than I did . . . you are quite welcome to. I had it in the bank the day you were 21 years old and don't intend to interfere with it in any way until I think you are capable of taking care of it and the sooner that time comes the better it will please me.”

      33

      In this declaration there is not lacking a single element necessary for the creation of a valid trust, and to that declaration the nephew assented.

      34

      The learned judge who wrote the opinion of the General Term, seems to have taken the view that the trust was executed during the life-time of defendant's testator by payment to the nephew, but as it does not appear from the order that the judgment was reversed on the facts, we must assume the facts to be as found by the trial court, and those facts support its judgment.

      35

      The order appealed from should be reversed and the judgment of the Special Term affirmed, with costs payable out of the estate.

      36

      All concur.

      37

      Order reversed and judgment of Special Term affirmed.

    • 2.2 Earle v. Angell

      1
       
      2
      EARLE
      3
      v.
      4
      ANGELL.
      5

       

      6

      Worcester. October 3, 4, 1892. — Oct. 21, 1892.

      7

      
Present: FIELD, C. J., HOLMES, KNOWLTON, MORTON, & LATHROP, JJ.

      8

      Parol Contract to pay Money after one’s Death.

      9

      A parol contract to pay a person a sum of money conditioned upon his attending the promisor’s funeral, and in consideration of his promise to do so, is valid ; and the fact that the acceptance varied from the terms of the offer is immaterial, if the jury might have found that the variation was assented to when the contract was made.

      10

      CONTRACT, against the executor of Mary Dewitt, to recover five hundred dollars upon an agreement made by the plaintiff with the defendant’s testatrix in her lifetime.

      11

      [295]

      12

      At the trial in the Superior Court, before Maynard, J., the plaintiff testified as follows:

      13

      “I saw Mrs. Dewitt in the fore part of August, 1883, in Oxford. I went there from Homesburg, a suburb of Philadelphia. That was on Sunday morning, August 11th. On Monday, August 12th, I and my aunt went out walking through the garden, soon after breakfast. We returned in after our ramble through the garden, and were seated in the sitting-room on the old hair sofa talking over things, and she holding me by the hand. She said, ‘Ben, there are few left to come to my funeral. I have thought a great deal of you for coming to your uncle’s funeral and bringing that large box of flowers in that terrible snowstorm we had, when our friends could not reach here from Boston, and you coming here from Philadelphia. I want you to attend my funeral, Ben, if you outlive me, and I think you will, and I will pay all expenses and I will give you five hundred dollars. I want you to come.’ I agreed to come if I lived, and they notified me of her death. After talking of the many gone and the few left, she says, ‘I want you to come to my funeral. If you will agree to come and attend my funeral if you outlive me,’ as near as I can give the precise language, ‘I will give you five hundred dollars and pay all expenses. It is a good ways to come, but I want you to come.’ I promised upon my honor to attend her funeral if I was a living man, and they informed me in time to get there, and I was able.

      “I saw my aunt again in 1885. I was at the funeral of my mother, and after it was over I went and called upon my aunt. Aunt says, ‘Another one is gone of the family, and we shall go soon, but don’t forget your agreement or promise to attend my funeral.’ I says, ‘I shan’t do it, aunt, and I shall come if I am able and they let me know in time to get here.’ I am not quite positive, but I am very sure she says, ‘Ben, I am going to give you five hundred dollars in the will, one half that your uncle did.’ My aunt died in 1887. I attended her funeral. I attended it on account of my promise. The writing on that envelope is my aunt’s, and the paper in it is also in her handwriting. It came into my possession, I cannot tell exactly when, but soon after I returned from my aunt’s funeral. It came to me sealed, and I cut it open with my scissors.”

      14

      [296]

      15

      The paper was as follows :

      16

      “$500.00. Oxford, August 14th, 1883. If Benjamin A. Earle should come to my funeral, I order my executor to pay him the sum of five hundred dollars. Mary Dewitt.”

      17

      The defendant offered no evidence, and the plaintiff having rested his case, the judge directed a verdict for the defendant; and the plaintiff alleged exceptions.

      18

      G. M. Rice, (If. W. King with him,) for the plaintiff.
W. S. B. Hopkins, (F. B. Smith with him,) for the defendant.

      19
      HOLMES, J.
      20

      There is no difficulty in point of law in the way of a parol contract to pay a person $500, conditioned upon his attending the promisor's funeral, and in consideration of his promise to do so. It is well settled that a contract to pay money after one's own death is valid. Parker v. Coburn, 10 Allen, 82, 83; Phillips v. Blatchford, 137 Mass. 510, 514; Krell v. Codman, 154 Mass. 454. And the other elements of the case are examples of very well known principles. The ruling that the plaintiff could not recover must have gone on the ground that there was no evidence of such a contract as we have supposed. According to the report, the plaintiff testified that the defendant's testatrix said, “If you will agree to come, … I will give you five hundred dollars,” etc., and that he promised to come if alive, and notified in time. We cannot say that this did not warrant a finding of promise for promise. It is suggested that the acceptance varied from the terms of the offer; but the parties were face to face, and separated seemingly agreed. The jury well might have found, if that was the only question, that the variation, if any, was assented to on the spot.

      21

       

      22

      Exceptions sustained.

      23

       

      24

       

    • 2.3 Whitten v. Greeley-Shaw

      1
      520 A.2d 1307 (1987)
      2
      George D. WHITTEN
      v.
      Shirley C. GREELEY-SHAW.
      3

      Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.

      4
      Argued November 14, 1986.
      5
      Decided February 19, 1987.
      6

      [1308] Kelly, Remmel & Zimmerman, Richard W. Mulhern (orally), Portland, for plaintiff.

      7

      Law Offices of George Carlton, Jr., William C. Leonard (orally), Bath, for defendant.

      8

      Before NICHOLS, ROBERTS, WATHEN, GLASSMAN, SCOLNIK and CLIFFORD, JJ.

      9
      NICHOLS, Justice.
      10

      On appeal the Defendant, Shirley C. Greeley-Shaw, contends that the Superior Court (Cumberland County) committed error when it entered judgment against her upon a promissory note in favor of the Plaintiff, George D. Whitten, in a foreclosure action, and when the court refused to recognize a certain writing entered into by the parties as a valid contract, that writing being the basis of the Defendant's counterclaim.

      11

      We reject both of the Defendant's claims of error and deny the appeal.

      12

      The Defendant's first claim of error originates from the foreclosure action brought by the Plaintiff pursuant to 14 M.R.S.A. § 6321 et seq. (1980 & Supp.1986). As assignee of a promissory note secured by a mortgage deed of a home in Harpswell, he sought to foreclose due to the Defendant's failure to pay any portion of the $64,000.00 long since overdue him on the promissory note. The Defendant alleged that she was the owner of the home, that it was given to her by the Plaintiff as an incident of their four-year romantic relationship, and as assistance toward her efforts to start life anew with her fiancee. While the Defendant admits to having executed both the promissory note and the mortgage deed in favor of the Plaintiff's assignor, she argues that neither the Plaintiff, nor his attorney (who was the assignor), had informed her of what the documents were that she was signing, their legal significance, or that she would be responsible for annual payments on the note. She claims that it was not until a week later, when photocopying the documents, that she thoroughly examined them and realized their legal significance. Not until the foreclosure action was commenced, however, did she make known to the Plaintiff her misunderstanding.

      13

      The Plaintiff asserts that at all times the funds he advanced to the Defendant to purchase the home was in the form of a loan, and that both he and his attorney made this clear to the Defendant. He testified that he had encouraged her to purchase a home in Maine and that he originally had his attorney's name on the deed and [1309] note to save himself possible embarrassment.

      14

      While she alleges facts that might possibly give rise to claims of misrepresentation or breach of fiduciary duty, the Defendant does not expressly claim either ground for relief. Based upon evidence adduced at trial, that included the deposition of a second attorney who actually conducted the closing, there was ample evidence to support the finding of the Superior Court that the Defendant was aware of the nature of the documents and her legal responsibilities, and entered into the contract voluntarily. It is to no avail that the Defendant objects to the contents of a contract, that she admits she "barely looked at", despite having been given the opportunity, and indeed encouragement, to read. Great Northern Mfg. Co. v. Brown, 113 Me. 51, 92 A. 993 (1915); Maine Mutual Ins. Co. v. Hodgkins, 66 Me. 109 (1876).

      15

      Emerging as a counterclaim to the Plaintiff's foreclosure action is the Defendant's request that the court enforce the terms of a written "agreement" entered into by the parties. The parties had engaged in an intermittent extra-marital affair from 1972 until March, 1980. At the time of this writing the Plaintiff, a Massachusetts contractor, had travelled to his Bermuda home to vacation with friends, and expected to soon be joined there by his wife. The precise facts surrounding the creation of the agreement are in dispute. However, it is the testimony of the Defendant that she wanted to have "something in writing" because of all the past promises to her that she said the Plaintiff had broken. She testified that the Plaintiff told her, "You figure out what you want and I will sign it." She added that she unilaterally drew up the "agreement" while in Bermuda, and the Plaintiff signed it without objection. There was an original and a copy, and only he signed the original.[1]

      16

      On his part the Plaintiff testified that he had agreed to visit with the Defendant, who had come to his Bermuda home uninvited, because "[S]he demanded I see her or she would come up and raise hell with my friends" and embarrass him in front of his wife.

      17

      Basically, the "agreement" is a one-page typewritten document, prepared by the Defendant, that begins "I, George D. Whitten... agree to the following conditions made by Mrs. Shirley C. Shaw ..." and then goes on to list four "conditions" required of the Plaintiff. The "conditions" require the Plaintiff to make payments to the Defendant of $500.00 per month for an indeterminate period, make any "major repairs" to the Harpswell home, pay for any medical needs, take one trip with the Defendant and supply her with one piece of jewelry per year, and visit and phone the Defendant at various stated intervals. The only "condition" that approaches the recital of a promise or duty of the Defendant is the statement "[U]nder no circumstances will there be any calls made to my homes or offices without prior permission from me."

      18

      The Plaintiff contends that, inter alia, this writing is unenforceable because of a lack of consideration. The Defendant argues that the writing is enforceable because there is the necessary objective manifestation of assent on each side, supported by the "stated" consideration of the Defendant not to call the Plaintiff without his prior permission, that, she asserts, constituted her "promise."

      19

      The Superior Court found that no legally enforceable contract had been created. We agree. Every contract requires "consideration" to support it, and any promise not supported by consideration is unenforceable. Zamore v. Whitten, 395 A.2d 435, 440 (Me.1978). The Defendant asks this Court to recognize the "agreement" as an enforceable bilateral contract, where the necessary consideration is the parties' promise of performance. 1 S.Williston, A Treatise on the Law of Contracts § 13 (3d ed. 1957). Generally, the Defendant's promise to forbear from engaging in an activity that she had the legal right to [1310] engage in, can provide her necessary consideration for the Plaintiff's return promises. Shaw v. Philbrick, 129 Me. 259, 262, 151 A. 423, 425 (1930); 1 Williston § 135. However, the Plaintiff's allegation of lack of consideration draws attention to the bargaining process; although the Defendant's promise to forbear could constitute consideration, it cannot if it was not sought after by the Plaintiff, and motivated by his request that the Defendant not disturb him. Id.; see also, Burgess v. Queen, 124 N.H. 155, 470 A.2d 861, 865 (1983). Of this there was no evidence whatsoever. This clause, the only one that operates in the Plaintiff's favor, was only included in the contract by the Defendant, because, she asserts, she felt the Plaintiff should get something in exchange for his promises. Clearly, this clause was not "bargained for" by the Plaintiff, and not given in exchange for his promises, and as such cannot constitute the consideration necessary to support a contract. Zamore, 395 A.2d at 444; see also, Restatement (Second) of Contracts §§ 75, 71(1)(2) (1982).

      20

      The entry is:

      21

      Judgment affirmed.

      22

      All concurring.

      23

      [1] Only the original was produced at the trial.

    • 2.4 Restatement of Contracts, Second, §§ 71, 81

    • 2.5 Duncan v. Black

      1
      324 S.W.2d 483 (1959)
      2
      E. M. DUNCAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
      v.
      William BLACK and Mary Ellen Black, Defendants-Respondents.
      3
      No. 7737.
      4

      Springfield Court of Appeals. Missouri.

      5
      May 15, 1959.
      6

      [484] Robert A. Dempster, Daniel S. Norton, Sikeston, for plaintiff-appellant.

      7

      Blanton & Blanton, Sikeston, for defendants-respondents.

      8
      RUARK, Judge.
      9

      This is a suit on a note, but the tentacles of the question reach into the mysteries of cotton acreage allotments. The plaintiff, now appellant, sued the defendants-respondents on a $1,500 note. The note was pleaded in conventional form. The answer was admission of execution but denial of consideration. At trial, which was without jury, the plaintiff offered his note and rested. The defendants, as was their burden, since the note imports a valid consideration,[1] then went forward with the evidence, and on the uncontradicted evidence the following facts were established.

      10

      Defendant William Black, who appears to have inherited considerable land from his father, sold some 359 acres of this land to the plaintiff. The contract, after referring to the description, consideration, and items not here concerned, announced in a separate paragraph, "Party of the second part is to receive a 65 acre cotton allotment with the land he is purchasing from the party of the first part." Deed was executed on December 29, 1954.

      11

      Now the land so sold did not "carry" a 65-acre cotton allotment. When and as fixed by the county committee, the allotment was only 49.6 acres, and the parties undertook to make up the 15-plus-acre difference by using a part of the allotment allowed to Black's unsold land. The first crop year defendants "made up that difference" out of their own cotton alloment.[2] The following year plaintiff came to defendants and requested that they "do that again" (make up the difference). Defendant Black first assented, but later decided that he didn't cotton to this idea, backed out, and did not do it. Sometime prior to September 13, 1956, the date of the note, plaintiff came to Black and told him that he (plaintiff) had been or would be penalized for planting more cotton than his allotment called for. He said he had been advised by a lawyer that defendant owed him damages "on the contract." Black asked if the matter couldn't be "settled," and the transaction was settled by the giving of the note in question.

      12

      It should be here noted that the evidence does not show, and it is not contended, that there was any fraud or misrepresentation, or any mistake of law or fact. Neither party contends the contract is ambiguous. Although on two occasions the defendants attempted to go back of the writing in order to show what was understood, on both occasions the plaintiff successfully objected on the ground that the written agreement speaks for itself.

      13

      The court rendered judgment for the defendants, and plaintiff has appealed. His contentions are premised upon the proposition that the giving of the note was a compromise of a disputed claim; that because plaintiff did not receive the complete consideration for which he bargained (the complete 65-acre cotton allotment), he was entitled to rescind; that in the new agreement (the acceptance of the note) he forbore this right of rescission, and this was sufficient consideration.

      14

      Among the respondents' contentions are (1) the contract for a 65-acre allotment was complied with by "making it up" for the one year; (2) there was no consideration because plaintiff's claim for damages had no basis; and (3) if there was a consideration it was illegal.

      15

      It is necessary that we first understand the nature of the thing the parties were attempting to bargain:

      16

      In the Agricultural Adjustment Act, Title 7 U.S.C.A. § 1282, there is a declaration of [485] policy, and in section 1341 there is a legislative finding and declaration that fluctuations in supplies of cotton disrupt orderly marketing, with consequent destruction of commerce; that without federal assistance farmers cannot prevent recurrence of excessive supplies and provide for orderly marketing; that it is in the interest of general welfare that the soil be not wasted by production of excessive supplies of cotton.

      17

      Accordingly it is provided that the Secretary of Agriculture shall fix and proclaim a national quota of cotton "for such marketing year," this to be submitted to a referendum, and if the required majority of the farmers vote to surrender a portion of their liberty in this respect, then the Secretary shall impose a national allotment for cotton "to be produced in the next calendar year." This allotment is thereafter apportioned among the states, and the state allotment is in turn apportioned among the counties, and the county allotment is in turn (by local committee) apportioned among the individual farms. The law provides for the reservation of a portion of the allotment in order to allow for adjustments, abnormal conditions, and new farms. It also provides that any allotment acreage which is voluntarily surrendered shall be reapportioned to other farms; and it further provides a penalty against the farmer for planting more than the allotment which has been established for his land. The Secretary is vested with power to make regulations necessary to carry out and enforce the Act, 7 U.S.C.A. § 1281 et seq.

      18

      The purpose and general scheme of the Act is to accomplish a national public benefit in controlling surplus and consequent abnormal prices by limiting production,[3] which purpose and benefit will fail unless the plan is carried out at farm level.[4] Under the Act and its administration, the individual farm acreage allotment is fixed by the county committee, whose finding of facts is final. The allotment runs with the land. It is not the separate "property" of the individual and is not subject to be sold, bartered or removed to other land.[5]

      19

      A situation somewhat similar to the one at hand arose in Luke v. Review Committee, D.C.W.D.La., 155 F.Supp. 719. A part of a farm was sold and the parties attempted themselves to divide the then existing allotment. The court said, loc. cit. 723:

      20
      "The County Committee and the Review Committee are legally prohibited from following the contract of sale and lease, which the plaintiff insists should be followed, since the Act and regulations under which cotton acreage allotments and quotas are established affirmatively determine how the cotton acreage history shall be divided, and the cotton acreage allotments established for a `farm.' In addition to this affirmative action required on the part of the County Committee by the regulations, such Committee was specifically prohibited from carrying out the contractual arrangements of the parties, which were in conflict with Section 722.825 of the regulations. This section provides: `A farm marketing quota is established for a farm, and * * * may not be assigned or otherwise transferred in whole or in part to any other farm.' As is evident throughout the Act and the regulations issued thereunder, acreage allotments are not established for individuals, but are established for a farm on the basis of the history of planted acreage on such farm. The construction argued for by the plaintiff seeks to establish [486] marketing quotas and acreage allotments for an individual, which is directly contrary to the specific provisions of the Act and regulations."
      21

      Our conclusion is that the attempt to buy and sell acreage of an allotment and move it from one farm to the other is not only invalid and contrary to the regulations governing operation of the Act, but also contrary to and destructive of the basic purpose of the Act.

      22

      The law favors compromise of doubtful claims, and forbearance may be a sufficient consideration for such compromise, even though the claim upon which it is based should develop to be ill-founded. The fact that, had the parties proceeded to litigate the claim, one of them would certainly have won, does not destroy the consideration for the compromise, for the consideration is said to be the settlement of the dispute.[6]

      23

      But there are certain essentials to the validity of such consideration. For one thing, and by all authority, the claim upon which the settlement is based must be one made in good faith. Of that there is no dispute in this case. Secondly, the claim must have some foundation. As to this second consideration we find the courts using varying language. The claim cannot be "utterly baseless."[7] It has been said that it must have a "tenable ground"[8] or a "reasonable, tenable ground."[9] It must be based on a "colorable right,"[10] or on some "legal foundation."[11] It must have at least an appearance of right sufficient to raise a "possible doubt" in favor of the party asserting it.[12] This is the Missouri rule.[13]

      24

      It is difficult to reconcile the antinomous rules and statements which are applied to the "doubtful claims" and to find the words which will exactly draw the line between the compromise (on the one hand) of an honestly disputed claim which has some fair element of doubt and is therefore to be regarded as consideration and (on the other hand) a claim, though honestly made, which is so lacking in substance and virility as to be entirely baseless. The Missouri courts have struggled and not yet found apt language. We think we had best leave definitions alone, confident that, as applied to each individual case, the facts will make the thing apparent. But if we should make further effort to distinguish we would say that if the claimant, in good faith, makes a mountain out of a mole hill the claim [487] is "doubtful." But if there is no discernible mole hill in the beginning, then the claim has no substance.

      25

      The very nature of a cotton acreage allotment is such that it has no existence except for the one specific year. It expires with the crop year. It is not continuous. The fact there may (or may not) be another allotment fixed for the next year carries no certainty that a successive allotment will be in the same amount or acreage. The cotton allotment acreage is not like an oak tree which continues in existence through the years and sends forth new leaves on the same branches with each successive spring. Rather it is like the bindweed which springs from seed, a new life with the coming of a new life-giving season—from seed which may or may not sprout, dependent upon conditions of sun, moisture, and a charitable soil, and which produces a plant only to die by the icy sword of frost when the season ends. So in this case the only possible allotment of a definite acreage applicable to the situation was that in existence for the contemplated crop year. None other existed. And there was no way under heaven the parties could be assured that any future allotment, if there was to be such, would be of the same acreage, any more than the proposed purchaser of public welfare relief checks could be assured by the recipient of such benefits that his welfare check would be in the same amount through the next year and from there on.

      26

      It would therefore appear that the only thing the parties were contracting for, or could have contracted for, was the amount of acres (65) allotted for the ensuing crop year. The uncontradicted evidence is that Black "made up" that acreage out of the acreage on his own (retained) land. Hence plaintiff got all he could possibly have bargained for, and his claim of the purchase of some nonexistent, ethereal future allotment stretching perhaps into eternity was baseless and did not rise to the dignity of consideration. It falls into the same category as a claim of purchase of the green cheese monopoly on the moon. Whether the parties actually knew they could not sell a future unfixed cotton allotment acreage off one farm and onto the other is not shown. No one testified that either of them knew, or did not know. But, be that as it may, the age-old legal fiction is that they did know the law, and this rule has been applied to the workings of the Agricultural Adjustment Act in relation to cotton allotments.[14]

      27

      But there is another and perhaps more potent reason why plaintiff cannot recover. The settlement of a claim based on a contract which is against public morals or public policy, or which is inherently illegal, or which is in direct violation of the statutes, cannot form the basis of consideration for a valid compromise settlement,[15] for the reason that "`the wrong done is against the state, and the state only can forgive it. To permit the subsequent ratification of such contract, or to consider it the sufficient and legal basis of a subsequent promise, would be a manifest inconsistency. It would be to annul the rule and enable the parties, by an easy expedient, to evade laws based upon considerations of public policy.'"[16] The attempt here to transfer the allotment was the attempt to do that which was clearly contrary to and destructive of the Act and its workings. And, being illegal as such, [488] it did not constitute a consideration which the law can recognize. The court must leave the parties where it found them.[17]

      28

      The record shows no request for findings of fact or law, and none were given. It is our duty to review the case upon both the law and the evidence as in suits of an equitable nature. The judgment shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge of the credibility of the witnesses.[18] The decision of the trial court is obviously based upon the fact there was no valid consideration for the note. It being so, we must affirm the judgment. It is so ordered.

      29
      STONE, P. J., and McDOWELL, J., concur.
      30

      [1] Simmon v. Marion, Mo.App., 227 S.W.2d 127, 134; McGinnis v. Rolf, 239 Mo.App. 54, 189 S.W.2d 456.

      31

      [2] How this was done we do not know.

      32

      [3] Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111, 63 S.Ct. 82, 87 L.Ed. 122; Rodgers v. United States, 332 U.S. 371, 68 S.Ct. 5, 92 L.Ed. 3; Usher v. United States, 4 Cir., 146 F.2d 369; United States v. Bonderer, D.C.W.D.Mo., 139 F.Supp. 391, 395.

      33

      [4] Edwards v. Owens, D.C.E.D.Mo., 137 F.Supp. 63, 65.

      34

      [5] Lee v. Berry, 219 S.C. 346, 65 S.E.2d 257, 259; Luke v. Review Committee, D.C.W.D.La., 155 F.Supp. 719.

      35

      [6] Corbin on Contracts, vol. 1, sec. 139, p. 431, sec. 140, p. 433; 11 Am.Jur., Compromise and Settlement, sec. 7, p. 253; 15 C.J.S. Compromise and Settlement § 11, p. 728, et seq.; State ex rel. St. Louis Shipbuilding & Steel Co. v. Smith, 356 Mo. 25, 201 S.W.2d 153; Weisert v. Bramman, 358 Mo. 636, 216 S.W.2d 430; Landers v. Fox, Mo.App., 209 S.W. 287.

      36

      [7] Osborne v. Fridrich, 134 Mo.App. 449, 114 S.W. 1045, 1047.

      37

      [8] Heck v. Watkins, Mo.App., 183 S.W. 351.

      38

      [9] Deiss v. Kasselmann, Mo.App., 189 S.W. 824, 825.

      39

      [10] Deiss v. Kasselmann, Mo.App., 189 S.W. 824; Holladay-Klotz Land & Lumber Co. v. Beekman Lumber Co., 136 Mo.App. 176, 116 S.W. 436.

      40

      [11] Tegethoff v. Sidmon, Mo.App., 158 S.W.2d 224.

      41

      [12] Long v. Towl, 42 Mo. 545, 550, 97 Am.Dec. 355.

      42

      [13] Although the law writers seem to make good faith alone the preponderant consideration. 11 Am.Jur., Compromise and Settlement, secs. 6 and 7, pp. 252, 253, says that the words "colorable," "plausible," et cetera, are mere catchwords underneath which lies the idea that the courts will not countenance extortion. 15 C.J.S. Compromise and Settlement § 11b, p. 732, states that the reality of the claim must be measured, not by the state of the law as it is ultimately discovered to be, but by the state of the knowledge of the person who at the time has to judge and make the concession. Professor Corbin (Corbin on Contracts, vol. 1, sec. 140, p. 436) states that the absence of reasonable ground for belief in validity is evidence of bad faith, but not conclusive.

      43

      [14] Edwards v. Owens, D.C.E.D.Mo., 137 F.Supp. 63, 68-69.

      44

      [15] Parke, Davis & Co. v. Mullett, 245 Mo. 168, 149 S.W. 461; Bick v. Seal, 45 Mo.App. 475; Gwinn v. Simes, 61 Mo. 335; Isaacson v. Van Gundy, Mo.App., 48 S.W.2d 208; Elmore-Schultz Grain Co. v. Stonebraker, 202 Mo.App. 81, 214 S.W. 216; Adams v. Cribbis, D.C.D.Colo., 17 F.Supp. 723; see 15 C.J.S. Compromise and Settlement § 36c, pp. 758-759.

      45

      [16] State ex rel. Isaacson v. Trimble, 335 Mo. 213, 72 S.W.2d 111, 114; Gilbert v. Edwards, Mo.App., 276 S.W.2d 611, 619-620.

      46

      [17] Gilbert v. Edwards, Mo.App., 276 S.W.2d 611, 619.

      47

      [18] Section 510.310, RSMo 1949, V.A.M.S.; Pitts v. Garner, Mo., 321 S.W.2d 509; In re Kies' Estate, Mo., 320 S.W.2d 478.

  • 3 1. A. 3. Benefit

    • 3.1 Mills v. Wyman

      1

      3 Pick. 207
      DANIEL MILLS
      v.
      SETH WYMAN.

      OCTOBER TERM 1825

      2

      The general position, than a moral obligation is a sufficient consideration for an express promise, is to be limited in its application, to cease where a good or valuable consideration has once existed.

      3

       Thus, where a son, who was of full age and had ceased on be a member of his father's family, was suddenly taken sick among strangers and, being poor and in distress, was relieved by the plaintiff, and afterwards the father wrote to the plaintiff promising to pay him the expenses incurred, it was held, that such promise would not sustain an action.

      4

      This was an action of assumpsit brought to recover a compensation for the board, nursing, &c., of Levi Wyman, son of the defendant, from the 5th to the 20th of February 1821. The plaintiff then lived at Hartford, in Connecticut; the defendant, at Shrewsbury, in this county. Levi Wyman, at the time when the services were rendered, was about 25 years of age, and had long ceased to be a member of his father's family. He was on his return from a voyage at sea, and being suddenly taken sick at Hartford, and being poor and in distress, was relieved by the plaintiff in the manner and to the extent above stated. On the 24th of February, after all the expenses had been incurred, the defendant wrote a letter to the plaintiff, promising to pay him such expenses. There was no consideration for this promise, except what grew out of the relation which subsisted between Levi Wyman and the defendant, and Howe, J., before whom the cause was tried in the Court of Common Pleas, thinking this not sufficient to support [208] the action, directed a nonsuit: To this direction the plaintiff filed exceptions.

      5

      J. Davis and Allen In support of the exceptions. The moral obligation of a parent to support his child is a sufficient consideration for an express promise. Andover &c. Turnpike Corp. V. Gould, 6 Mass. R. 40 ; Andover v. Salem, 3 Mass. R. 438; Davenport v. Mason, 15 Mass. R. 94 ; 1 Bl. Comm. 446 ; Reeve’s Dom. Rel 283. The arbitrary rule of law, fixing the age of twenty-one years for the period of emancipation, does not interfere with this moral obligation, ID case a child of full age shall be unable to support himself. Our statute of 1793, c. 59, requiring the kindred of a poor person to support him,  proceeds upon the ground of a moral obligation.

      6

      But if there was no moral obligation on the part of the defendant, it is sufficient that his promise was in writing, and was made deliberately, with A knowledge of all the circumstances A man has a right to give away his property. [Parker C. J. There is a distinction between giving and promising.] The case of Bowers. v. Hurd, 10 Mass. R. 427, does not take this distinction. [Parker C. J. That case has been doubted.] Neither does the case of Packard v. Richardson, 17 Mass. R. 122 ; and in this last case (p. 130) the want of consideration is treated as a technical objection.

      7

      Brigham, for the defendant, furnished in vacation a written argument, in which he cited Fowler v. Shearer, 7 Mass. R . 22; Rann v. Hughes, 7 T. R. 350, note; Jones v. Ashburnham, 4 East, 463; Pearson v. Pearson, 7 Johns. R . 26 ; Schoonmaker v. Roosa, 17 Johns. R. 301 ; the note to Wennall v . Adney, S Bos. & Pul. 249 ; Fink v. Coz, 18 Johns. R. 145; Barnes v. Hedley, 2 Taunt. 184; Lee v. Muggeridge, 5 Taunt. 36. He said the case of Bower. v. Hurd was upon a promissory note, where the receipt of value is acknowledged; which is a privileged contract. Livingston  v. Hastie, 2 Caines's R. 246 ; Bishop v. Young, 2 Bos. & Pul. 79, 80; Pillans v. Mierop, 3 Burr. 1670; I Wins's Saond 211, note 2.

      8

      The opinion of the Court was read, as drawn up by Parker  C. J.

      9

      General rules of law established for the protection and security of honest and fair-minded men, who [209] may inconsiderately make promises without any equivalent, will sometimes screen men of a different character from engagements which they are bound in foro conscientiae to perform. This is a defect inherent in all human systems of legislation. T he rule that a mere verbal promise, without any consideration, cannot be enforced by action, is universal in its application, and cannot be departed from to suit particular cases in which a refusal to perform such a promise may be disgraceful.

      10

      The promise declared on in this case appears to have been made without any legal consideration. The kindness and services towards the sick son of the defendant were not bestowed at his request. The son was in no respect under the care of the defendant. He was twenty-five years old, and had long left his father's family. On his return from a foreign country, he fell sick among strangers, and the plaintiff acted the part of the good Samaritan, giving him shelter and comfort until he died. The defendant, his father, on being informed of this event, influenced by a transient feeling of gratitude, promises in writing to pay the plaintiff for the expenses he had incurred. But he has determined to break this promise, and is willing to have his case appear on record as a strong example of particular injustice sometimes necessarily resulting from the operation of general rules.

      11

      It is said a moral obligation is a sufficient consideration to support an express promise; and some authorities lay down the rule thus broadly; but upon examination of the cases we are satisfied that the universality of the rule cannot be supported, and that there must have been some preexisting obligation, which has become inoperative by positive law, to form a basis for an effective promise. The cases of debts barred by the statute of limitations, of debts incurred by infants, of debts of bankrupts, are generally put for illustration of the rule. Express promises founded on such preexisting equitable obligations may be enforced; there is a good consideration for them; they merely remove an impediment created by law to the recovery of debts honestly due, but which public policy protects the debtors from being compelled to pay. In all these cases there was originally a quid pro quo; and according to the [210] principles of natural justice the party receiving ought to pay; but the legislature has said he shall not be coerced; then comes the promise to pay the debt that is barred, the promise of the man to pay the debt of the infant, of the discharged bankrupt to restore to his creditor what by the law he had lost. In all these cases there is a moral obligation founded upon an antecedent valuable consideration. These promises therefore have a sound legal basis. They are not promises to pay something for nothing; not naked pacts; but the voluntary revival or creation of obligation which before existed in natural law, but which had been dispensed with, not for the benefit of the party obliged solely, but principally for the public convenience. If moral obligation, in its fullest sense, is a good substratum for an express promise, it is not easy to perceive why it is not equally good to support an implied promise. What a man ought to do, generally he ought to be made to do, whether he promise or refuse. But the law of society has left most of such obligations to the interior forum, as the tribunal of conscience has been aptly called. Is there not a moral obligation upon every son who has become affluent by means of the education and advantages bestowed upon him by his father, to relieve that father from pecuniary embarrassment, to promote his comfort and happiness, and even to share with him his riches, if thereby he will be made happy? And yet such a son may, with impunity, leave such a father in any degree of penury above that which will expose the community in which he dwells to the danger of being obliged to preserve him from absolute want. Is not a wealthy father under strong moral obligation to advance the interest of an obedient, well disposed son, to furnish him with the means of acquiring and maintaining a becoming rank in life, to rescue him from the horrors of debt incurred by misfortune? Yet the law will uphold him in any degree of parsimony, short of that which would reduce his son to the necessity of seeking public charity.

      12

      Without doubt there are great interests of society which justify withholding the coercive arm of the law from these duties of imperfect obligation as they are called; imperfect, not because they are less binding [211] upon the conscience than those which are called perfect, but because the wisdom of the social law does not impose sanctions upon them.

      13

      A deliberate promise, in writing, made freely and without any mistake, one which may lead the party to whom it is made into contracts and expenses, cannot be broken without a violation of moral duty. But if there was nothing paid or promised for it, the law, perhaps wisely, leaves the execution of it to the conscience of him who makes it. It is only when the party making the promise gains something, or he to whom it is made loses something, that the law gives the promise validity. And in the case of the promise of the adult to pay the debt of the infant, of the debtor discharged by the statute of limitations or bankruptcy, the principle is preserved by looking back to the origin of the transaction, where an equivalent is to be found. An exact equivalent is not required by the law; for there being a consideration, the parties are left to estimate its value: though here the courts of equity will step in to relieve from gross inadequacy between the consideration and the promise.

      14

      These principles are deduced from the general current of decided cases upon the subject, as well as from the known maxims of the common law. The general position, that moral obligation is a sufficient consideration for an express promise, is to be limited in its application, to cases where at some time or other a good or valuable consideration has existed. [1]

      15

      A legal obligation is always a sufficient consideration to support either an express or an implied promise; such as an infant's debt for necessaries, or a father's promise to pay for the support and education of his minor children. But when the child shall have attained to manhood, and shall have become his own agent in the world's business, the debts he incurs, whatever may be their nature, create no obligation upon the father; and it seems to follow, that his promise founded upon such a debt has no legally binding force.

      16

      The cases of instruments under seal and certain mercantile contracts, in which considerations need not be proved, do not contradict the principles above suggested. The first import a consideration in themselves, and the second belong to a [212] branch of the mercantile law, which has found it necessary to disregard the point of consideration in respect to instruments negotiable in their nature and essential to the interests of commerce.

      17

      Instead of citing a multiplicity of cases to support the positions I have taken, I will only refer to a very able review of all the cases in the note in 3 Bos. & Pul. 249. The opinions of the judges had been variant for a long course of years upon this subject, but there seems to be no case in which it was nakedly decided, that a promise to pay the debt of a son of full age, not living with his father, though the debt were incurred by sickness which ended in the death of the son, without a previous request by the father proved or presumed, could be enforced by action.

      18

      It has been attempted to show a legal obligation on the part of the defendant by virtue of our statute, which compels lineal kindred in the ascending or descending line to support such of their poor relations as are likely to become chargeable to the town where they have their settlement. But it is a sufficient answer to this position, that such legal obligation does not exist except in the very cases provided for in the statute, and never until the party charged has been adjudged to be of sufficient ability thereto. We do not know from the report any of the facts which are necessary to create such an obligation. Whether the deceased had a legal settlement in this commonwealth at the time of his death, whether he was likely to become chargeable had he lived, whether the defendant was of sufficient ability, are essential facts to be adjudicated by the court to which is given jurisdiction on this subject. The legal liability does not arise until these facts have all been ascertained by judgment, after hearing the party intended to be charged. [2]

      19

      For the foregoing reasons we are all of opinion that the non-suit directed by the Court of Common Pleas was right, and that judgment be entered thereon for costs for the defendant.

      20

      [1]  Coole v. Bradley, 7 Connect. R. 57; Littlefield v. Shee, 2 Barnw. &. Adol. 811; Yelv. (Metcalf's ed.) 4 a, note 1; Parker v. Carter, 4 Munf. 273; M' Plerson v. Rees, 2 Penrose &. Watts, 521 ; Pennington v. Gillings, 2 Gill &. Johns. 208;  Smith v. Ware, 13 Johns. R.259. Edwards v. Davis, 16 Johns. R. 281, 283, note; Greeves v. McAllister, 2 Binn. 591; Clandler v. Hill, 2 Hen. & Munf. 124; Fonbl. On Eq. by Laussat, 273, Note; 2 Kent’s C, Comm. (2nd ed.) 465.
      Contra, Glass v. Beach, 5 Vermont R. 172; Barlow v. Smith, 4 Vermont R. 144 ; Commissioners of the Canal Fund v. Perry, 5 Ohio R. 58.
      See also Seago v. Deane, 4 Bingh. 459 ; welles v. Horton, 2 Carr. &. Payne, 383; Davis v. Morgan, 6 Dowl. &. Ryl. 42.

      21

      [2] See Cook Y. Bradley, 7 Connect. R. 57; Weatherfield v. Montagueo, 3 connect . R 507 ; Dover v. McMurphy, 4 N. Hamp. R. 158

    • 3.2 Webb v. McGowin

      1

      27 Ala.App. 82, 168 So. 196 (1935)
      Joe WEBB
      v.
      Floyd and Joseph F. McGOWIN
      Court of Appeals of Alabama
      Nov. 12, 1935
      Denied 232 Ala. 374, 168 So. 199 (1936)

      2

      Appeal from Circuit Court, Butler County; A. E. Gamble, Judge.

      3

      Action by Joe Webb against N. Floyd McGowin and Joseph F. McGowin, as executors of the estate of J. Greeley McGowin, in, deceased. From a judgment of nonsuit, plaintiff appeals.

      4

      Reversed and remanded.

      5

      Certiorari denied by Supreme Court in . Webb v. McGowin, 232 Ala. 374, 168 So. 199.

      6

      Powell & Hamilton, of Greenville, for appellant.

      7

      A moral obligation is a sufficient consideration and will support a subsequent promise to pay, where the promisor has received an actual pecuniary or material benefit, although there was no original duty or liability. Lycoming County v. Union County, 15 Pa. 166, 53 Am. Dec. 579; Ferguson v. Harris, 39 S.c. 323, 17 S.E. 782, 39 'Am. St.Rep. 731; Muir v. Kane, 55 Wash. 131, .104 P. 153, 26 L.R.A.(N.S.) 519, 526, 19 Ann.Cas. 1180; 17 A.L.R. 1324, 1368, 1370, .1374; Park Falls State Bank v. Fordyce, 206 Wis. 628, 238 N.W. 516, 79 A.L.R. 1339; Hawkes v. Saunder.s, 1 Cowp. 290; State v. Funk, 105 Or. 134, 19Q P. 592, 209 P. 113, 25 A.L.R. 634; Edson v; Poppe, 24 S.D. 466, 124 N.W. 441, 26 L.R.A.(N.S.). 534; Sutch's Estate, 201 Pa. 305, 50 A. 943; Olsen v. Hagan, 102 Wash. 321, 172 P.1173. A promise to pay for part services implies that they were rendered upon a previous request. Such services are a good consideration for the promise, and the implication that a previous request had been made for the services rendered is one of law. 17 A.L.R. 1370-1374; Pittsburg, etc., Co. v. Cerebus Oil Co., 79 Kan. 603, 100 P. 631; Holland v. Martinson, 119 Kan. 43, 237 P. 902; Fellows Box Co. v. Mills, 86 N. H. 267, 167 A. 153; McMorris v. Herndon, 2 Bailey (S.C.) 56, 21 Am.Dec. 517; Bailey v. Philadelphia, 167 Pa. 569, 31 A. 925, 46 Am.St Rep. 691; Chick v. Trevett, 20 Me. 462, 37 Am.Dec. 69; Chadwick v. Knox, 31 N.H. 226, 64 Am.Dec. 329: Ross v. Pearson, 21 Ala. 473, 477; Baker v. Gregory, 28 Ala. 544, 65 Am. Dec. 366; Clanton v. Eaton, 92 Ala. 612, 8 So. 823; Harris v. Davis, 1 Ala. 259. The agreement sued on is not within the statute of frauds. 25 R.C.L. 456, 457, 470.

      8

      Calvin Poole, of Greenville, for appellee. A past consideration is not sufficient to support a subsequent promise. . It is not enough to show that a service has been rendered and that it was beneficial to the party sought to be charged, unless such service was rendered at the promisor's special request. A promise given in consideration of past services voluntarily rendered without the promisor's privity or request is purely gratuitous and creates no legal liability. 1 Elliott on Contr. § 213; Clark on Contr. 197, § 91; Shaw v. Boyd, 1 Stew. & P. 83 j Thomason v. Dill, 30 Ala . 444; Holland v. Barnes, 53 Ala. 83, 25 Am.  Rep. 595; 13 C.J. 359; 6 R.C.L. 672; 17 A.L.R. 1373; 79 A.L.R. 1354. A promise to pay for services rendered is never implied unless the services were rendered under such circumstances as to raise a presumption that they were to be paid for' or, at least, that the circumstances were such that a reasonable man in the same situation would and ought to understand that compensation was to be paid for such services. 2 Elliott on Contr. § 1365 j 6 R.C.L. 587; Brush E. L. & P. Co. v. City Council of Montgomery, 114 Ala. 433, 21 So. 960; 13 C.J. 240. A mere moral obligation will not support an express promise. A valid consideration must have at one time existed creating a legal duty or obligation which is barred at the time of the promise by some positive rule of law. Clark on Contr. 180,. § 84 j 1 Elliott on Contr. § 211; Vance v. Wells, 6 Ala. 737; Agee v. Steele, 8 Ala. 948; Kenan v. Holloway, 16 Ala. 53, 50 Am..Dec. 162; Turlington v. Slaughter, 54 Ala. 195; Grimball v. Mastin, 77 Ala. 553; Thompson v. Hudgins, 116 Ala. 93, 107, 22 So. 632; 53 L.RA. 361; 17 A.L.R 1304; 79 A.L.R 1347. A promise to pay based on an illegal consideration is not enforceable. The alleged contract sued on is void as' being in contravention of public policy. 50 C.J. 857; 6 R.C.L. 727; Vance v. Wells, supra; Georgia Fruit Exch. v. Turnipseed, 9 Ala.App. 123, 62 So. 542; Union Nat. Bank v; Hartwell, 84 Ala. 379, 4 So. 156; Western Union Tel. Co. Y. Priester, 21 Ala.App. 587, 111 So. 199.

      9

      BRICKEN, Presiding Judge.

      10

      This action is in assumpsit. The complaint as originally filed was amended. The demurrers to the complaint as amended were sustained, and because of this adverse ruling by the court the plaintiff took a nonsuit, and the assignment of errors on this appeal are predicated upon said action or ruling of the court.

      11

      A fair statement of the case presenting the questions for decision is set out in appellant's brief, which we adopt.

      12

      "On the 3d day of August, 1925, appellant while in the employ of the W.T. Smith Lumber Company, a corporation, and acting within the scope of his employment, was engaged in clearing the upper floor of Mill No.2 of the company. While so engaged he was in the act of dropping a pine block from the upper floor of the mill to the ground below; this being the usual and ordinary way of clearing the floor, and it being the duty of the plaintiff in the course of his employment to so drop it. The block weighed about 75 pounds.

      "As appellant was in the act of dropping the block to the ground below, he was on the edge of the upper floor of the mill. As he started to turn the block loose so that it would drop to the ground, he saw J. Greeley McGowin, testator of the defendants, on the ground below and directly under where the block would have fallen had appellant turned it loose. Had he turned it loose it would have struck McGowin with such force as to have caused him serious bodily harm or death. Appellant could have remained safely on the upper floor of the mill by turning the block loose and allowing it to drop, but had he done this the block would have fallen on McGowin and caused him serious Injuries or death. The only safe and reasonable way to prevent this was for appellant to hold to the block and divert its direction in falling from the place where McGowin was standing and the only safe way to divert it so as to prevent its coming into contact with McGowin was for appellant to fall with it to the ground below. Appellant did this, and by holding to the block and falling with it to the ground below, he diverted the course of its fall in such way that McGowin was not injured. In thus preventing the injuries to McGowin appellant himself received serious bodily injuries, resulting in his right leg being broken, the heel of his right foot torn off and his right arm broken. He was badly crippled for life and rendered unable to do physical or mental labor.

      "On September 1, 1925, in consideration of appellant having prevented him from sustaining death or serious bodily harm and in consideration of the injuries appellant had received, McGowin agreed with him to care for and maintain him for the remainder of appellant's life at the rate of $15 every two weeks from the time he sustained his injuries to and during the remainder of appellant's life; it being agreed that McGowin would pay this sum to appellant for his maintenance. Under the agreement Mc, Gowin paid or caused to be paid to appellant the sum so agreed on up until McGowin's death on January 1, 1934. After his death the payments were continued to and including January 27, 1934, at which time they were discontinued. Thereupon plaintiff brought suit to recover the unpaid installments accruing up to the time of the bringing of the suit.

      "The material averments of the different counts of the original complaint and the amended complaint are predicated upon the foregoing statement of facts."

      13

      In other words, the complaint as amended averred in substance: (1) That on August 3, 1925, appellant saved J. Greeley McGowin, appellee's testator, from death or grievous bodily harm; (2) that in doing so appellant sustained bodily injury crippling him for 'life; (3) that in consideration of the services rendered and the injuries received by appellant, McGowin agreed to care for him the remainder of appellant's life, the amount to be paid being $15 every two weeks; (4) that McGowin complied with this agreement until he died on January 1, .1934, and the payments were kept up to January 27, 1934, after which they were discontinued.

      14

      The action was for the unpaid installments accruing after January 27, 1934, to the time of the suit.

      15

      The principal grounds of' demurrer to the original and amended complaint are: (1) It states no cause of action; (2) its averments show the contract was without consideration; (3) it fails to allege that McGowin had, at or before the services were rendered, agreed to pay appellant for them; (4) the contract declared on is void under the statute of frauds.

      16

      1. The averments of the complaint show that appellant saved McGowin from death or grievous bodily harm. This was a material benefit to him of infinitely more value than any financial aid he could have received. Receiving this benefit, McGowin became morally bound to compensate appellant for the services rendered. Recognizing his moral obligation, he expressly agreed to pay appellant as alleged in the complaint and complied with this agreement up to the time of his death; a period of more than 8 years.

      17

      Had McGowin been accidentally poisoned and a physician, without his knowledge or request, had administered an antidote, thus saving his life, a subsequent promise by McGowin to pay the physician would have been valid. Likewise, McGowin's agreement as disclosed by the complaint to compensate appellant for saving him from death or grievous bodily injury is valid and enforceable.

      18

      Where the promisee cares for, improves, and preserves the property of the promisor, though done without his request, it is sufficient consideration for the promisor's subsequent agreement to pay for the service, because of the material benefit received. Pittsburg Vitrified Paving & Building Brick Co. v. Cerebus Oil Co., 79 Kan. 603, 100 P. 631; Edson v. Poppe, 24 S.D. 466, 124 N.W. 441, 26 I.R.A.(N.S.) .534; Drake v. Bell, 26 Misc. 237, 55 N.Y.S. 945.

      19

      In Boothe v. Fitzpatrick, 36 Vt. 681, the court held that a promise by defendant to pay for the past keeping of a bull which had escaped from defendant's premises and been cared for by plaintiff was valid, although there was no previous request, because the subsequent promise obviated that objection; it being equivalent to a previous request. On the same principle, had the promisee saved the promisor's life or his body from grievous harm, his subsequent promise to pay for the services rendered would have been valid. Such service would have been far more material than caring for his bull. Any holding that saving a man from death or grievous bodily harm is not a material benefit sufficient to uphold a subsequent promise to pay for the service, necessarily rests on the assumption that saving life and preservation of the body from harm have only a sentimental value. The converse of this is true. Life and preservation of the body have material, pecuniary values, measurable in dollars and cents. Because of this, physicians practice their profession charging for services rendered in saving life and curing the body of its ills, and surgeons perform operations. The same is true as to the law of negligence, authorizing the assessment of damages in personal injury cases based upon the extent of the injuries, earnings, and life expectancies of those injured.

      20

      In the business of life insurance, the value of a man's life is measured in dollars and cents according to his expectancy, the soundness of his body, and his ability to pay premiums. The same is true as to health and accident insurance.

      21

      It follows that if, as alleged in the complaint, appellant saved J. Greeley McGowin from death or grievous bodily harm, and McGowin subsequently agreed to pay him for the service rendered, it became a valid and enforceable contract.

      22

      2. It is well settled that a moral obligation is a sufficient consideration to support a subsequent promise to pay where the promisor has received a material benefit, although there was no original duty or liability resting on the promisor.  Lycoming County v. Union County, 15 Pa. 166, 53  Am.Dec. 575, 579, 580 j Ferguson v. Harris, 39 S.C. 323, 17 S.E. 782, 39 Am.St.Rep. 731, 734; Muir v. Kane, 55 Wash. 131, 104 P. 153, 26 L.R.A.(N.S,) 519, 19 Ann.Cas. 1180; State ex reI. Bayer v.Funk, 105 Or. 134, 199 P. 592, 209 P. 113, 25 A.L.R. 625, 634; Hawkes v. Saunders, 1 Cowp. 290; In re Sutch's Estate, 201 Pa. 305, 50 A 943 Edson v. Poppe, 24 S.D. 466, 124 N.W. 441, 26 L.R.A(N. S.) .534; Park Falls State Bank v. Fordyce, 206 Wis. 628, 238 N.W. 516, 79 AL. R. 1339; Baker v. Gregory, 28 Ala. 544, 65 Am.Dec. 366. In the case of State ex rel. Bayer v. Funk, supra, the court held that a moral obligation is a sufficient consideration to support all executory promise where the promisor received an actual pecuniary or material benefit for which he subsequently expressly promised to pay.

      23

      The case at bar is clearly distinguishable from that class of cases where the consideration is a mere moral obligation or conscientious duty unconnected with receipt by promisor of benefits of a material or pecuniary nature. Park Falls State Bank v. Fordyce, supra. Here the promisor received a material benefit constituting a valid consideration for his promise.

      24

      3. Some authorities hold that, for a moral obligation to support a subsequent promise to pay, there must have existed a prior legal or equitable obligation, which for some reason had become unenforceable, but for which the promisor was still morally bound. This rule, however, is subject to qualification in those cases where the promisor having received a material benefit from the promisee, is morally bound to compensate him for the services rendered and in consideration of this obligation promises to pay. In such cases the subsequent promise to pay is an affirmance or ratification of the services rendered carrying with it the presumption that a previous request for the service was made McMorris v. Herndon, 2 ~ai1ey (S.c,) 56, 21 Am.Dec. 515; Chadwick v. Knox, 31 N.H. 226, 64 Am.Dec. 329; Ke- follownan v. Holloway, 16 Ala. 53, 50 Am.Dec. 162; Ross v. Pearson, 21 Ala. 473.

      25

      Under the decisions above cited, McGowin's express promise to pay appeIlant for the services rendered was an affirmance or ratification of what appelconclulant had done raising the presumption that the services had been rendered at McGowin's request.

      26

      4. The averments of the complaint show that in saving McGowin from death or grievous bodily harm, appellant was crippled for life. This was part of the consideration of the contract declared on. MeGowin was benefited. Appellant was injured. Benefit to the promisor or injury to the promisee is a sufficient legal consideration for the promissor's agreement to pay. Fisher v. Bartlett, 8 Greenl. (Me.) 122, 22 Am.Dec. 225; State ex reI. Bayer v. Funk, supra.

      27

      5. Under the averments of the complaint the services rendered by appellant were not gratuitous. The agreement of McGowin to pay and the acceptance of payment by appellant conclusively shows the contrary..

      28

      6. The contract declared on was not void under the statute of frauds (Code 1923, § 8034). The demurrer on this ground was not well taken. 25 R.C.L. 456, 457 and 470, § 49. .

      29

      The cases of Shaw v. Boyd, 1 Stew. & P. 83, and Duncan v. Hall, 9 Ala. 128, are not in conflict with the principles here announced. In those cases the lands were owned by the United States at the time the alleged improvements were made, for which subsequent purchasers  from the government agreed to pay. These subsequent purchasers were not the, owners of the lands at the time the improvements were made. Consequently, they could not have been made for their benefit.

      30

      From what has been said, we are of the opinion that the court below erred in the ruling complained of; that is to say in sustaining the demurrer, and for this error the case is reversed and remanded.

      31

      Reversed and remanded.

      32

      SAMFORD, Judge (concurring).

      33

      The questions involved in this case are not free from doubt, and perhaps the strict letter of the rule, as stated by judges, though riot always in accord, would bar a recovery by plaintiff, but following the principle announced by Chief Justice Marshall in Hoffman v. Porter, Fed. Cas. No. 6,577, 2 Brock. 156, 159, where he says, "I do not think that law ought to be separated from justice, where it is at most doubtful," I concur in the conclusions reached by the court.

    • 3.3 Harrington v. Taylor.

      1
      36 S.E.2d 227
      225 N.C. 690
      2
      HARRINGTON.
      v.
      TAYLOR.
      3
      No. 594.
      4
      Supreme Court of North Carolina.
      5
      Dec. 12, 1945.
      7

      [36 S.E.2d 227]

      8

      Appeal from Superior Court, Richmond County; Hubert E. Olive, Special Judge.

      9

      Action by Lena Harrington against Lee Walter Taylor on defendant's promise to pay damages for injuries sustained by plaintiff at hands of another when plaintiff intervened to save defendant's life. From a judgment for defendant, plaintiff appeals.

      10

      Affirmed.

      11

      George S. Steele, Jr., of Rockingham, for plaintiff, appellant.

      12

      No counsel contra.

      13
      PER CURIAM.
      14

      The plaintiff in this case sought to recover of the defendant upon a promise made by him under the following peculiar circumstances:

      15

      The defendant had assaulted his wife, who took refuge in plaintiff's house. The next day the defendant gained access to the house and began another assault upon his wife. The defendant's wife knocked him down with an axe, and was on the point of cutting his head open or decapitating him while he was laying on the floor, and the plaintiff intervened, caught the axe as it was descending, and the blow intended for defendant fell upon her hand, mutilating it badly, but saving defendant's life.

      16

      Subsequently, defendant orally promised to pay the plaintiff her damages; but, after paying a small sum, failed to pay anything more. So, substantially, states the complaint.

      17

      The defendant demurred to the complaint as not stating a cause of action, and the demurrer was sustained. Plaintiff appealed.

      18

      The question presented is whether there was a consideration recognized by our law as sufficient to support the promise. The Court is of the opinion that, however much the defendant should be impelled by common gratitude to alleviate the plaintiff's misfortune, a humanitarian act of this kind, voluntarily performed, is not such consideration as would entitle her to recover at law.

      19

      The judgment sustaining the demurrer is

      20

      Affirmed.

    • 3.4 Restatement (First) of Restitution, § 112

    • 3.5 Restatement of Contracts, Second, § 86

    • 3.6 Edson v. Poppe.

      1
      24 S.D. 466
      124 N.W. 441
      2
      EDSON
      v.
      POPPE.
      3
      Supreme Court of South Dakota.
      4
      Jan. 12, 1910.
      6

      Appeal from Circuit Court, Turner County.

      7

      Action by George F. Edson against William Poppe. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendant appeals. Affirmed. [441] Edwin Lewis Brown and French & Orvis, for appellant.

      8

      Jones & Jones and L. L. Fleeger, for respondent.

      9

       

      10
      McCOY, J.
      11

       

      12

      The plaintiff recovered judgment upon the verdict of a jury in the circuit court. The case was tried upon the following complaint: That the defendant at all the times hereinafter named was the owner of the following described premises situated in Turner county, S. D., to wit (describing the land); that at all the times herein named George Poppe was in possession of said premises as the tenant of defendant; that during the year 1904 this plaintiff, at the instance and request of said George Poppe, drilled and dug upon said premises a well 250 feet deep, and obtained water in said well, and placed casing therein; that the reasonable value of the digging and casing of said well was and is the sum of $250; that said well was and is a valuable improvement upon the said premises, and greatly adds to the value thereof, and has been used by the occupants of said premises since the said digging thereof, with the knowledge and consent of defendant; that on or about the 5th day of August, 1905, the defendant, at the said premises, after having examined the said well, and in consideration of the said well to him, and of the improvement it made upon said premises, expressly ratified the acts of his said tenant in having said well drilled, and then and there promised and agreed to pay plaintiff the reasonable value of the digging and casing of the said well as aforesaid; that defendant has since refused, and still refuses, to pay plaintiff anything for said well. Wherefore, etc. To the said complaint defendant made the following answer: Denies generally and specifically each and every allegation in said complaint, except such as is hereinafter specifically admitted. Defendant admits that he is the owner of the said premises as stated in the complaint. At the opening of the trial, and upon the offer of testimony on the part of plaintiff, defendant objected to the introduction of any evidence, for the reason that the complaint did not state a cause of action, in that the consideration alleged in the contract is a past consideration, and no consideration for any promise, if any was made, and no consideration for the promise alleged. The objection was overruled, and defendant excepted. This ruling of the trial court is assigned and now urged as error, but we are of the opinion that the ruling of the learned trial court was correct.

      13

      It seems to be the general rule that past services are not a sufficient consideration for a promise to pay therefor, made at a subsequent time, and after such services have been fully rendered and completed; but in some courts a modified doctrine of moral obligation is adopted, and it is held that a moral obligation, founded on previous benefits received by the promisor at the hands of the promisee, will support a promise by him. 9 Cyc. 361; Doty v. Wilson, 14 Johns (N. Y.) 378;Oatfield v. Waring, 14 Johns. (N. Y.) 188;Glenn v. Savage, 14 Or. 567, 13 Pac. 442. The authorities are not so clear as to the sufficiency of past services, rendered without previous request, to support an express promise; but, when proper distinctions are made, the cases as a whole seem to warrant the statement that such a promise is supported by a sufficient consideration if the services were beneficial, and were not intended to be gratuitous. Trimble v. Rudy, 53 L. R. A., note p. 373, and cases cited. In Drake v. Bell, 26 Misc. Rep. 237, 55 N. Y. Supp. 945, a mechanic, under contract to repair a vacant house, by mistake repaired the house next door, which belonged to the defendant. The repairing was a benefit to the latter, and he agreed to pay a certain amount therefor. It was held that the promise rested upon sufficient consideration. Gaynor, J., says: “The rule seems to be that a subsequent promise, founded on a former enforceable obligation, or on value [442] previously had from the promisee, is binding.” In Glenn v. Savage, 14 Or. 567, 13 Pac. 442, it was held that an act done for the benefit of another without his request is deemed a voluntary act of courtesy, for which no action can be sustained, unless after knowing of the service the person benefited thereby promises to pay for it. In Boothe v. Fitzpatrick, 36 Vt. 681, it is held that if the consideration, even without request, moves directly from the plaintiff to the defendant, and inures directly to the defendant's benefit, the promise is binding though made upon a past consideration. In this case the court held that a promise by defendant to pay for the past keeping of a bull, which had escaped from defendant's premises and been cared for by plaintiff, was valid, although there was no previous request, but that the subsequent promise obviated that objection; it being equivalent to a previous request. The allegation of the complaint here is that the digging and casing of the well in question inured directly to the defendant's benefit, and that, after he had seen and examined the same, he expressly promised and agreed to pay plaintiff the reasonable value thereof. It also appears that said well was made under such circumstances as could not be deemed gratuitous on the part of plaintiff, or an act of voluntary courtesy to defendant. We are therefore of the opinion that, under the circumstances alleged, the subsequent promise of defendant to pay plaintiff the reasonable value for digging and casing said well was binding, and supported by sufficient consideration. We are also of the opinion that the instructions based on this complaint, and in particular as to the validity of the subsequent promise of defendant, properly submitted the issues to the jury.

      14

      At the close of plaintiff's evidence, and again at the close of all the evidence on both sides, defendant moved for a directed verdict. Both motions were overruled. Defendant excepted, and now assigns such rulings as error; but, as the evidence is not contained in the abstract on which these motions were based, the assignment cannot be considered. Neither can we consider assignments of error based on evidence or objections to evidence not shown by the abstract.

      15

      Finding no error in the record, the judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.

      16
      SMITH, J., took no part in this decision.
    • 3.7 Muir v. Kane

      1

      [No. 7913. Department One. October 4, 1909.]

      2
      
B. L. Muir, Respondent,
      3
      v.
      4
      M. FRANCIS KANE et al., Appellants.
      5

      CONTRACTS—CONSIDERATION—MORAL OBLIGATION—FRAUDS, STATUTE OF. An oral contract with a broker to pay commissions on the sale of real estate, void under the statute of frauds, raises a moral obligation which is sufficient consideration to support a subsequent written agreement to pay the same, after the rendition of the services.

      6

      Appeal from a judgment of the superior court for King county, Griffin, J., entered May 15, 1908, upon findings in favor of the plaintiff, after a trial on the merits before the court without a jury, in an action to recover a broker’s commission. Affirmed.

      7

      Rice & Frank, for appellants.

      8

      F. J. Carver, for respondent.

      9

      [132]

      10
      FULLURTON, J.—
      11

      The respondent brought this action to recover of the appellants the sum of $200, alleged to be due pursuant to a written agreement executed and delivered to him by the appellants, whereby they agreed to pay him the sum of $200 for his services in selling for appellants a certain tract of real property. Issue was taken on the complaint and a trial had thereon, which resulted in a judgment in his favor for the amount claimed to be due. The case was tried by the court silting without a jury. No question is raised as to the correctness of the facts found, but the case is here on the question whether these facts justify the judgment of the court.

      12

      The court’s findings of fact are as follows:

      13

      “(1) That now and at all times herein referred to the plaintiff is and was doing a general real estate business in Seattle, Washington, under the firm name and style of B. L. Muir & Co. being the sole owner thereof.

      “(2) That now and at all times concerned herein, the defendants are and were husband and wife.

      “(3) That on or about the 21st day of November, 1906, the defendants made, executed and delivered to the plaintiff their written agreement agreeing to pay said plaintiff two hundred dollars ($200) for his services in selling for them a certain parcel of real estate; said agreement being in words and figures, to wit:

      “ ‘M. Francis Kane and Ida Kane, his wife, agree to sell and Paul Bush agrees to buy the following described real estate situated in the County of King, State of Washington, to wit:

      “ ‘South 40 feet of lot 1, block 17, J. H. Nagle’s addition to the city of Seattle, for the sum of nine thousand six hundred dollars ($9,600) the purchaser having paid the sum of five hundred dollars ($500) the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, as earnest money and part payment for said land, the same to be held in trust by B. L. Muir & Co. until the sale is closed or canceled and the balance of said purchase price shall be paid as follows, or as soon after said dates respectively as the title to said real estate is shown to be marketable, to wit:

      “ ‘Three thousand dollars ($3,000) on or before the 22nd

      14

      [133]

      15

      day of Nov. 1900, at 1 p. m.; nineteen hundred dollars ($1,900) on or before the 22nd day of Nov. 1907, at 1 p. m.; four thousand dollars ($4,000) according to certain mortgage to be executed due in three years from date.

      “ ‘The purchaser agrees to pay interest at the rate of six per cent payable semi-annually on all deferred payments.

      “ ‘The vendor agrees to furnish an abstract of title made by a reliable abstract company, for said real estate showing a marketable title of record in the vendor free from encumbrances to date of conveyance except the street assessments amount to about two hundred dollars ($200) and if over $200 the surplus to be deducted from the nineteen hundred payment which the purchaser assumes and agrees to pay as a part of the above named purchase price, and the vendor further agrees to transfer said property to the purchaser by a good and sufficient warranty deed to the said vendee or his assigns and pay two hundred dollars ($200) of the purchase price to B. L. Muir & Co. for services rendered.

      “ ‘The purchaser shall have one day’s time after the delivery of said abstract for examination of same, and in case the abstract shall show a marketable title in the vendor, this sale shall be completed, and if the said title is not marketable and cannot be made so, then B. L. Muir & Co. shall refund to the said vendee the above named earnest money, and the sale shall be canceled, the deposit of $500 to be paid to Mrs. Ida Kane in the event of the purchaser failing to comply with this agreement.

      “ ‘Witness our hands this 21st day of November, 1906. “ ‘Signed and delivered in the presence of B. L. Muir.

      “ ‘M. FRANCIS KANE, [SEAL.]

      “ ‘IDA KANE, [SEAL.]

      “ ‘PAUL BUSH. [SEAL.]’

      “(4) That the plaintiff did make the sale referred to in said written contract and which sale was accepted by the defendants, but they have since failed, neglected and refused to pay the aforesaid two hundred dollars ($200) commission allowed, although the same is long past due and still the property of the plaintiff.”

      16

      The statute governing contracts for commissions for buying or selling real estate provides that any agreement authorizing an employee, an agent or broker, to sell or pur-

      17

      [134]

      18

      chase real estate for compensation or a commission, shall be void unless the agreement, contract, or promise, or some note or memorandum thereof, be in writing. The appellants contend that the writing relied upon by the respondent is insufficient under the statute; that it is not an agreement authorizing the respondent to sell the real property described for compensation or commission, nor does it authorize or employ the respondent to sell real estate at all. Manifestly, if the writing sued upon was intended as an agreement authorizing the respondent to sell real estate of the appellants, it is faulty in the particulars mentioned, and so far deficient as not to warrant a recovery even if a sale had been made thereunder. But we do not understand that this is the question presented by the record. It is clear that this writing was not intended as an agreement authorizing the respondent to sell the real property mentioned. In fact, it was executed after that service had been performed, and is an agreement in writing to pay a fixed sum for a past service, not a service to be performed in the future. The question for determination is its validity as a promise to pay for a past service.

      19

      Looking to the instrument itself, there is nothing on its face that in any manner impugns its validity. It is a direct promise to pay a fixed sum of money for services rendered. Prima facie, therefore, it is legal and valid; and if it is illegal at all, it is because the actual consideration for the promise, which was alleged and proven, rendered the promise illegal. This consideration was the sale of real property for the appellants by the respondent acting as a broker, without a written agreement authorizing the service, and it is thought that because the statute declares an agreement for such a service void unless in writing, the service furnishes no consideration for the subsequent promise, since the service must either have been founded upon an invalid agreement or was voluntary. There are cases which maintain this doctrine. In Bagnole v. Madden (N. J . ) , 69 Atl. 967, the precise question was presented. There the plaintiff had been orally authorized

      20

      [135]

      21

      by the defendant to sell a parcel of real estate owned by the defendant. A purchaser was found and a contract of sale entered into. The defendant thereupon executed a written agreement and delivered the same to the plaintiff, wherein she promises to pay him $50 for his services. In an action brought upon the writing, the court held that she could not recover because of the invalidity of the original oral contract authorizing the services, it being in violation of the statute declaring such agreement void unless in writing. The case was rested on a decision of the Court of Errors and Appeals, Stout v. Humphrey, 69 N. J. L. 436, 55 Atl. 281, which announced the same doctrine, but upon a state of facts not quite the same; the subsequent promise to pay being oral instead of in writing. In the course of its opinion in the latter case, the court said:

      22

      “It is clear that if a contract between two parties be void, and not merely voidable, no subsequent express promise will operate to charge the party promising, even though he has derived the benefit of the contract. Yet, according to the commonly received notion respecting moral obligations, and the force attributed to a subsequent express promise, such a person ought to pay. An express promise, therefore, as it should seem, can only revive a precedent good consideration which might have been enforced at law through the medium of an implied promise had it not been suspended by some positive rule of law, but can give no original right of action if the obligation on which it is founded never could have been enforced at law, though not barred by any legal maxim or statute provision.”

      23

      The court, it will be observed, makes a distinction between contracts formerly good but on which the right of recovery has been barred by the statute, and those contracts which are barred in the first instance because of some legal defect in their execution, holding that the former will furnish a consideration for a subsequent promise to perform, while the latter will not.

      24

      It has seemed to us that this distinction is not sound. The moral obligation to pay for services rendered as a broker in

      25

      [136]

      26

      selling real estate, under an oral contract where the statute requires such contract to be in writing, is just as binding as is the moral obligation to pay a debt that has become barred by the statute of limitations, and there is no reason for holding that the latter will support a new promise to pay while the former will not. There is no moral delinquency that attaches to an oral contract to sell real property as a broker. This service cannot be recovered for because the statute says the promise must be in writing; not because it is illegal in itself. It was not intended by the statute to impute moral turpitude to such contracts. The statute was intended to prevent frauds and perjuries, and to accomplish that purpose, it is required that the evidence of the contract be in writing; but it is not conducive to either fraud or perjury to say that the services rendered under the void contract, or voluntarily, will support a subsequent written promise to pay for such service. Nor is it a valid objection to say there was no antecedent legal consideration. The validity of a promise to pay a debt barred by the statute of limitations is not founded on its antecedent legal obligation. There is no legal obligation to pay such a debt; if there were, there would be no need for the new promise. The obligation is moral solely, and since there can be no difference in character between one moral obligation and another, there can be no reason for holding that one moral obligation will support a promise while another will not.

      27

      Our attention has been called to no case, other than the New Jersey case above cited, where the facts of the case at bar are presented. A case in point on the principle involved, however, is Ferguson v. Harris, 39 S. C. 323, 39 Am. St. 731. Certain persons, without authority from the defendant, had ordered lumber and used it in the erection of a building on the defendant’s separate property, she being a married woman. Subsequently she gave her promissory note therefor, and when an action was brought upon the note she sought to defend on the ground of want of consideration. It

      28

      [137]

      29

      was conceded that there was never any legal obligation on the part of the defendant to pay for the lumber, but that her obligation was wholly moral. It was thereupon urged that such an obligation was insufficient to support the promise. Speaking upon this question the court said:

      30

      “All of the authorities admit that where an action to recover a debt is barred by the statute of limitations, or by a discharge in bankruptcy, a subsequent promise to pay the same can be supported by the moral obligation to pay the same, although the legal obligation is gone forever; and I am unable to perceive any just distinction between such a case and one in which there never was a legal, but only a moral, obligation to pay. In the one case, the legal obligation is gone as effectually as if it had never existed, and I am at a loss to perceive any sound distinction in principle between the two cases. In both cases, at the time the promise sought to be enforced is made, there is nothing whatever to support it except the moral obligation, and why the fact that, because in the one case there was once a legal obligation, which, having utterly disappeared, is as if it had never existed, should affect the question, I am at a loss to conceive. If, in the one case, the moral obligation, which alone remains, is sufficient to afford a valid consideration for the promise, I cannot see why the same obligation should not have the same effect in the other. The remark made by Lord Denman, in Eastwood v. Kenyon, 11 Ad. & E. 438, that the doctrine for which I am contending ‘would annihilate the necessity for any consideration at all, inasmuch as the mere fact of giving a promise creates a moral obligation to perform it,’ is more specious than sound, for it entirely ignores the distinction between a promise to pay money which the promisor is under a moral obligation to pay, and a promise to pay money which the promisor is under no obligation, either legal or moral, to pay. It seems to me that the cases relied upon to establish the modern doctrine, so far as my examination of them has gone, ignore the distinction pointed out in the note to Comstock v. Smith, 7 Johns. 89, above cited, between an express and an implied promise resting merely on a moral obligation, for while such obligation does not seem to be sufficient to support an implied promise, yet it is sufficient to support an express promise.”

      31

      [138]

      32

      To the same effect is Anderson v. Best, 176Pa.St. 498, 35 Atl.194, wherein it was said:

      33

      “The distinction sought to be made between considerations formerly good but now barred by statute, and those barred by statute in the first instance, is not substantial, and is not sustained by the cases.”

      34

      See, also, Bailey v. Philadelphia, 167 Pa. St. 569,31 Atl. 925, 46 Am. St. 691; Stout v. Ennis, 28 Kan. 706.

      35

      Believing as we do that the better rule is with the cases holding the moral obligation alone sufficient to sustain the promise, it follows that the judgment appealed from should be affirmed. I t is so ordered.

      36

      RUDKIN, C. J., GOSE, CHADWICK, and MORRIS, JJ., concur

    • 3.8 In re Schoenkerman’s Estate

      1

      236 Wis. 311

      2
      ESTATE OF SCHOENKERMAN: SUCHER and another, Respondents,
      vs.
      BILLER, Executor, Appellant.
      3

      November 8—December 3, 1940.

      4

      APPEAL from an order of the county court of Milwaukee county: C. A. HANSEN, Judge. Affirmed.

      5

      Claims of Goldie Sucher and Ethel Sucher against the estate of Bern S. Schoenkerman, deceased, filed June 7, 1939. From an order allowing the claims, entered February 7, 1940, the executor appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion.

      6

      [312] Herman A. Mosher of Milwaukee, for the appellant.

      7

      For the respondents there was a brief by Jos. G. Konop, attorney, and Albert B. Houghton of counsel, both of Milwaukee, and oral argument by Mr. Houghton.

      8

      FOWLER, J. Goldie Sucher and Ethel Sucher filed claims against the estate of Bern S. Schoenkerman, deceased. The claimants were mother-in-law and sister-in-law, respectively, of the decedent. Both claims are for services rendered to the decedent during a series of years in caring for the decedent's home and children. After continuance of the service for ten years the decedent executed and delivered to the mother-in-law his promissory note for $500 and to the sister-in-law his like note for $1,500. The claimants in their claims applied the amount of the notes upon the aggregates claimed, and demanded judgment for the difference. The mother-in-law's claim aggregated $500 and the sister-in-law's $4,610. The court allowed judgments for the amounts of the notes, but disallowed anything in excess of these sums.

      9

      The wife of the deceased died in May, 1928. She was a daughter of the one claimant and sister of the other. At the time of the death the claimants were maintaining a home in Chicago. The mother kept the house, and the daughter was employed outside at $15 per week. The decedent had two children, a son thirteen years old and a daughter seventeen years old. At the solicitation of the decedent the mother and daughter broke up their home in Chicago, and went to Milwaukee there to take care of the decedent's home and the children and continued to do so until a short the death of the decedent, who died May 18, 1939. The notes were executed May 14, 1938, and were payable in eight months from date. In maintaining the decedent's home, the mother did the cooking for the family and the daughter did the entire purchasing for the maintenance of the home [313] and of the clothing for the children. She took entire charge of the household and of caring for the children and did everything of that nature that the wife and mother could have done had she lived. The appellant contends that the mother and daughter lived as members of the family, and that their relations to the decedent were such that the services were gratuitous, and intent to make compensation for them will not be presumed, but express agreement to pay therefor must be proved in order to warrant compensation. This may be conceded. An express agreement was not proved. The trial court so found, and held that there was no legal obligation to pay for the services rendered except as was covered by the notes, but that the notes were valid. The court did not state the basis of his holding that the notes were valid, but if such basis appears his ruling must be sustained.

      10

      The crucial question in this case is whether there was consideration for the notes other than natural love and affection. If the sale consideration was the latter then there can be no recovery. Estate of Smith, 226 Wis. 556, 560, 277 N. W. 141. However, the Smith Case recognizes the rule that a moral obligation will operate as consideration for an executory promise "whenever the promisor has originally received value, material pecuniary benefit, under circumstances giving rise to a moral obligation on his part to pay for that which he has received." To this rule the opinion in the Smith Case cites Park Falls State Bank v. Fordyce, 206 WIS. 628, 238 N. W. 516; Elbinger v. Capitol & Teutonia Co. 208 Wis. 163, 242 N. W. 568; Onsrud v. Paulsen, 219 Wis: 1, 261 N. W. 541. In the Elbinger Case, supra, the rule is stated as above quoted. The rule as above stated was also applied in Estate of Hatten, 233 Wis. 199, 218, 288 N. W. 278, wherein the Elbinger and Park Falls State Bank Cases, supra, are cited in support.

      11

      [314] The appellant contends that as in this case the claimants were relatives of the deceased living in his family there was no legal obligation on the part of the deceased to pay for the services rendered, and that a legal obligation must have existed in order to render the moral-obligation rule applicable. If it be true that under the circumstances of this case the presumption arises that the services were gratuitous, a fact we need not and therefore do not decide, it does not follow that there must have been a legal obligation to compensate in order to constitute a moral obligation a good consideration. It is said of the Park Falls State Bank Case, supra, in the Elbinger Case, supra, p. 165:

      12

      "We there repudiated, as too narrow, the principle obtaining in some jurisdictions that in order for a moral consideration to be sufficient to support an executory promise there must have been a pre-existing legal obligation to do the thing promised, which, for some reason, as the statute of limitations, discharge in bankruptcy, or the like, is unenforceable."

      13

      In the instant case the decedent was manifestly under a moral obligation to pay the claimants in addition to what they had received for their ten years of service to him. In executing and delivering the notes to them he plainly recognized that obligation, and from any point of view it afforded more than ample consideration for the notes. The notes were negotiable instruments. They recite that they were executed for "value received." There is a presumption that they were given for a consideration. As a moral obligation existed to pay for the great excess of value of the services received by the decedent over the value of the board and lodging received from the decedent by the claimants, that moral obligation will be presumed to be the consideration for the notes. The notes therefore became a legal obligation, as distinguished from a mere unexecuted promise to make a gift of money.

      14

      By the Court.—The order of the county court is affirmed.

    • 3.9 In re Crisan Estate

      1
      362 Mich. 569 (1961)
      2
      107 N.W.2d 907
      3
      In re CRISAN ESTATE.
      4
      Docket No. 62, Calendar No. 48,248.
      5

      Supreme Court of Michigan.

      6
      Decided March 1, 1961.
      7

      Cyrowski & Pasternacki (Arthur Majewski, of counsel), for executor.

      8

      Nathaniel H. Goldstick, Corporation Counsel, John R. McKinlay, Assistant Corporation Counsel, for claimant.

      9
      EDWARDS, J.
      10

      This appeal presents a situation contemplated by our appellate rules but too rarely achieved — a statement of facts and a legal question agreed on by the opposing parties. It should be added that opposing counsel have added to this triumph by briefs which are brief and which cogently argue the interesting legal problem involved.

      11

      The question is:

      12

      "Will the law imply a promise to pay for emergency services rendered to an unconscious patient by a public hospital?"

      13

      The facts are:

      14

      Sosa Crisan, hereinafter referred to as the "patient," was an 87-year-old widow of Roumanian origin without any relatives.

      15

      [571] While shopping at her grocer's on March 17, 1955, she collapsed and was removed in emergency by the Detroit police department to its Receiving Hospital where she was admitted and remained for 14 days. On March 31st, she was transferred to Central Hospital, an overflow or city-physician's hospital, which took patients under contract with the city of Detroit, where she died without ever regaining consciousness on February 9, 1956, some 11 months later.

      16

      Prompt investigation by the city disclosed that the patient owned her own home, whereupon she was classified as a patient with assets and rejected by the Wayne county board of social welfare as, therefore, ineligible for relief.

      17

      The city took no steps to appoint a guardian for the patient.

      18

      Subsequent investigation disclosed that the patient had $50 in cash, and enjoyed an income of $33 per month as rent from an upper flat. The value of the home is $7,000.

      19

      After her death, the appellee (city of Detroit, claimant) presented its claim against her estate, viz.:

      20
          14 days at Receiving at $29.20/day ....  $  408.80    315 days at Central at $8.90/day ......   2,803.50    ambulance .............................       6.00                                             _________                    Total .................  $3,218.30
      21

      The referee allowed the claim in its entirety and thereafter the probate and circuit courts affirmed the same. Motion for new trial was denied, and the patient's executor prosecutes the instant appeal.

      22

      Appellant's contentions are that there was no meeting of the minds of the parties as to charges for the services rendered, that neither Mrs. Crisan (because of her mental condition), nor the Detroit department of health (because it was only empowered to operate a public hospital, and not to make any charges) was able to contract, and that, under these [572] circumstances, no contract, actual or implied, could arise.

      23

      The trial judge answered these arguments succinctly:

      24

      "It is obvious that there was no express contract or one implied in fact because following her collapse decedent was never able consciously to express her assent. Nevertheless, one who supplies services to another, although acting without the other's knowledge or consent, is entitled to restitution therefor from the other if he acted unofficiously and with intent to charge therefor and the services were necessary to preserve the other's life or health, and the one supplying it had no reason to know that the other would not consent to receiving them if mentally competent, and it was impossible for the recipient to give consent because of her physical or mental condition (Restatement, Restitution, § 116). This principle has been approved by the Michigan Supreme Court (In re Dzwonkiewicz Estate, 231 Mich 165).

      "The executor's contention that his obligation to pay must be determined by the decedent's ability, tested during her lifetime, is not tenable. The authorities upon which he relies are concerned with a statutory obligation to pay when a person shall have been committed to a hospital through legal process. CL 1948, § 330.21, as amended (Stat Ann § 14.811, as amended).[1] The executor also contends that the city of Detroit may not recover because it was under a duty to furnish treatment regardless of the patient's ability to repay. He directs our attention to no authority for this proposition, and, absent some express limitation, we must conclude that the city of Detroit may charge for services rendered by Receiving Hospital. The city of Detroit is accordingly entitled to recover under a contract implied in law. The order of the probate court is [573] therefore affirmed and the cause is remanded for further proceedings."

      25

      As to the right of Receiving Hospital to make charges to nonwelfare patients, there is indeed astonishingly little authority. The corporation counsel points to State policy providing for reimbursement in parallel situations involving hospitalization expenses paid by counties or the State department of social welfare.[2]

      26

      [574] While the statutes cited to us are obviously not directly applicable to the present case, they tend to negative the assumption for which appellant seeks our endorsement — namely, that a "public" hospital must perforce be one which renders only free care. No statutory, charter, or ordinance provision is cited which imposes a duty of providing free medical care to persons who are able to pay. Like the trial judge, we decline to supply such a requirement.

      27

      As to the more difficult question of whether or not on these facts a promise to pay will be implied in law, the Restatement provision relied upon by the trial judge provides as follows:

      28

      "A person who has supplied things or services to another, although acting without the other's knowledge or consent, is entitled to restitution therefor from the other if

      "(a) he acted unofficiously and with intent to charge therefor, and

      "(b) the things or services were necessary to prevent the other from suffering serious bodily harm or pain, and

      "(c) the person supplying them had no reason [575] to know that the other would not consent to receiving them, if mentally competent; and

      "(d) it was impossible for the other to give consent or, because of extreme youth or mental impairment, the other's consent would have been immaterial." Restatement, Restitution, § 116.

      29

      This Court appears to have considered the problem before us in 2 cases — In re Dzwonkiewicz Estate, 231 Mich 165, and In re Weber's Estate, 256 Mich 61. In each, the Court found a promise to pay implied in law.

      30

      In the Dzwonkiewicz Case, there was a statute (CL 1915, § 13968) which made a guardian liable for the "just debts" of a minor, and which is not applicable here. We read the Weber Case, however, as authority for holding that Michigan has previously adopted the essence of the Restatement section which we have quoted.

      31

      There is surprisingly little case authority to be found in the reports of the other States upon the problem with which we are concerned. In Cotnam v. Wisdom, 83 Ark 601 (104 SW 164, 12 LRA NS 1090, 119 Am St Rep 157, 13 Ann Cas 25), the supreme court of Arkansas held (Ann Cas headnote):

      32

      "A surgeon summoned by a spectator in an emergency to attend an injured and unconscious person may recover the reasonable value of his services from the estate of the patient although the patient dies without ever regaining consciousness."

      33

      The court (p 605) relied heavily for its reasoning upon a New Hampshire case which said:

      34

      "We regard it as well settled by the cases referred to in the briefs of counsel, many of which have been commented on at length by Mr. Shirley for the defendant, that an insane person, an idiot, or a person utterly bereft of all sense and reason by the sudden stroke of accident or disease, may be held liable, [576] in assumpsit, for necessaries furnished to him in good faith while in that unfortunate and helpless condition. And the reasons upon which this rests are too broad, as well as too sensible and humane, to be overborne by any deductions which a refined logic may make from the circumstance that in such cases there can be no contract or promise in fact, — no meeting of the minds of the parties. The cases put it on the ground of an implied contract; and by this is not meant, as the defendant's counsel seems to suppose, an actual contract, — that is, an actual meeting of the minds of the parties, an actual, mutual understanding, to be inferred from language, acts, and circumstances, by the jury, — but a contract and promise, said to be implied by the law, where, in point of fact, there was no contract, no mutual understanding, and so no promise. The defendant's counsel says it is usurpation for the court to hold, as matter of law, that there is a contract and a promise, when all the evidence in the case shows that there was not a contract, nor the semblance of one. It is doubtless a legal fiction, invented and used for the sake of the remedy. If it was originally usurpation, certainly it has now become very inveterate, and firmly fixed in the body of the law." Sceva v. True, 53 NH 627, 630.

      35

      See, also, 3 Page on Contracts (2d ed), § 1521.

      36

      The rationale of the New Hampshire and Arkansas courts is similar to that of the Restatement rule relied on by the circuit judge. The first comment under the Restatement rule quoted above is:

      37

      "Comment:

      "a. The rule stated in this section exists in order that a person needing help in an emergency and not able to ask for it should obtain it, the attainment of such a result being aided by assuring compensation to the person rendering the aid if the other is solvent." Restatement, Restitution, § 116, p 484.

      38

      [577] The judgment appealed from is affirmed. Costs to appellee.

      39
      DETHMERS, C.J., and CARR, KELLY, SMITH, BLACK, KAVANAGH, and SOURIS, JJ., concurred.
      40

      [1] See, currently, PA 1960, No 117. — REPORTER.

      41

      [2]"The county department shall enter into an agreement signed by the patient or a legally responsible relative or guardian for reimbursement of the net cost to the county in furnishing such hospitalization: Provided, That such an agreement between the patient and the county department shall be deemed to be in existence in respect to an emergency hospitalization. The spouse, parent and adult child or [of?] any such patient being of sufficient ability shall be jointly and severally liable to the county department for the reimbursement of the expenses incurred by the county in furnishing such hospitalization to the extent that such expenses are not reimbursed from another source. Such liability may be enforced in an action at law." PA 1957, No 286, § 66c (CL 1948, § 400.66c, as amended [Stat Ann 1960 Rev § 16.466 (3)]).

      42

      "The county department of social welfare is hereby authorized and empowered to collect and receive funds to reimburse the county for expenditures made on behalf of recipients of any from of aid or relief, or hospital care provided at county expense, from such recipients, their relatives legally responsible under the laws of this State for the support of such recipients, or from the estates of recipients, in accordance with the laws of this State, and the rules and regulations of the State department of social welfare, which funds, reimbursed for direct relief, shall be disbursed to carry out the provisions of this act. Agreements for the reimbursement of the county department of social welfare for relief granted to persons or families in their own homes may be required in the cases of applicants whose need for relief is based in whole or in part on inability to obtain funds, moneys, moneys which may be received, income or assets unavailable at the time of application for or grant of relief: Provided, however, That earnings from wages or salaries not due or owing at the time of application for or grant of relief shall not be included in reimbursement agreements. Reimbursements for any form of hospital care provided at county expense shall be collected and paid over by the department of social welfare to the county treasurer for deposit to the fund from which such expenditure was made: Provided, That no county department of social welfare nor any other agency of county government shall collect or receive reimbursements for hospitalization or other treatment for tuberculosis, whether there is an agreement to reimburse the county or not, unless such reimbursement has been ordered by the State commissioner of health or is found acceptable by him as a voluntary reimbursement as provided in section 3a of Act No 314 of the Public Acts of 1927, as added, being section 329.403a of the Compiled Laws of 1948, and no county department of social welfare shall collect or receive reimbursements for hospitalization or other treatment for any other communicable disease or diseases. Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the civil service status, if any, of county employees now engaged in collecting reimbursements for the county for any form of aid, relief or hospital care, under the supervision of any other county department. All such employees, and all collection records and files in the county on cases investigated by the department of social welfare prior to the effective date hereof, shall be transferred to and be under the supervision, control and jurisdiction of the board of social welfare in such county.

      "If a county has acknowledged liability or has reimbursed another county for the cost of any form of aid, relief or hospital care provided at county expense, the county so reimbursed shall credit or remit, as the case may be, to the paying county within 60 days, any additional collections thereon from any other source. It shall be the duty of each county department of social welfare to continue to collect according to its best judgment and ability, if so requested by the county which has acknowledged or paid for any form of aid, relief or hospital care provided at county expense." CLS 1956, § 400.77 (Stat Ann 1960 Rev § 16.477).

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