Law School Case Brief
DeMentas v. Estate of Tallas - 764 P.2d 628 (Utah Ct. App. 1988)
An account stated has been defined as an agreement between parties who have had previous transactions of a monetary character that all the items of the account representing such transactions, and the balance struck, are correct, together with a promise, express or implied, for the payment of such balance. Consequently, the essential elements of an account stated include previous transactions between the parties giving rise to an indebtedness from one to the other, an agreement between the parties as to the amount due and the correctness of that amount, and an express or implied promise by the debtor to pay the creditor the amount owing.
The claimant appealed from a trial court order that dismissed his claim against a decedent's estate for $50,000 for services he provided to the decedent. The claimant and decedent were friends, and the claimant did errands and assisted the decedent with various business tasks over many years. The decedent dictated a memorandum to the claimant stating that he owed him money and would include a bequest in his will to the claimant for $50,000. The decedent did not include the claimant in his will, and the claimant filed suit. The trial court found that the memorandum was not an enforceable contract, and merely showed the decedent's intent to amend his will or otherwise compensate the claimant. The trial court rejected the claim based on theories of quantum meruit and an account stated. The claimant appealed.
Was the claim sufficient for the estate to consider payment under quantum meruit?
The court affirmed the judgment for the estate. The court found that the claim was sufficient for the estate to consider payment under quantum meruit or account stated and that extrinsic evidence was properly admitted on the issue of adequate consideration. As to the issue of consideration, the court determined that it was only necessary to find that the claimant performed some work for the deceased, not that the amount equaled the value of the services. The court concluded, however, that the past services rendered gratuitously were inadequate consideration for the promise to include the claimant in the deceased's will. In addition, the claimant could not recover under an account stated theory because there were no previous transactions on which to derive an account stated.
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