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Law School Case Brief

Bailey v. West - 105 R.I. 61, 249 A.2d 414 (1969)

Rule:

Essential elements of contracts "implied in fact" are mutual agreement, and intent to promise, but the agreement and the promise have not been made in words and are implied from the facts.

Facts:

The horse buyer bought a race horse and discovered the horse was lame. The seller refused to accept the return of the horse, and the driver delivered the horse to the farm owner's farm. The horse remained there until the farm owner sold the horse to a third party. The farm owner sent monthly bills to the horse buyer, who disclaimed ownership of the horse. The farm owner filed an action against horse buyer seeking the reasonable value of his services rendered in connection with four years of feeding, care, and maintenance of a race horse. The superior court rendered a decision for the farm owner for his cost of boarding the horse for five months and for certain expenses. The farm owner appealed, and the horse buyer filed a cross appeal.

Issue:

Was there a contract “implied in fact” between the farm owner and the horse buyer?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court held that the trial court erred in finding a contract implied in fact between the parties because there was no mutual agreement. The court stressed that the farm owner knew from the time the horse was delivered to him that there was a dispute as to its ownership; the farm owner's actions indicated that he did not know with whom, if anyone, he had a contract; neither the horse buyer nor the trainer had ever had any business transactions with the farm owner; and the trainer had instructed the driver that the horse buyer would not be responsible for boarding the horse on any farm. The court rejected the farm owner's argument that there was a quasi-contract, finding instead that the farm owner was a mere volunteer who boarded the horse at his own risk and with full knowledge that he might not be reimbursed for his expenses.

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