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Gay v. Mooney - 67 N.J.L. 27, 50 A. 596 (1901)

Rule:

In cases against an estate to recover for services provided by a relative to a decedent, a reasonable and proper expectation that there would be compensation must, and hence may, be shown. When, in pursuance of a bargain, for a reason unenforceable, services have been rendered, the legal remedy is by an action on the quantum meruit for the value of the services. 

Facts:

A relative of the decedent filed suit seeking to recover compensation for the board and lodging he furnished to the decedent. Complainant, surviving trustee, filed with the trial court his accounts as trustee for the Valentine Marsh trust, from October 1, 1902 to May 1, 1904, and included the income from real estate as well as personal property in general account, and prayed allowance generally for the payments of $2,800 and also for certain other payments and expenses claimed to be chargeable generally against the income of the estate.

Issue:

Was the relative of the decedent who provided board and lodging to the decedent entitled to compensation from the estate?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

In order to rebut a presumption that the service was rendered and received as a gratuity, plaintiff put in evidence tending to show an understanding between himself and the deceased that the latter would devise a certain dwelling-house to the plaintiff's children in return for what he should receive as a member of the family. For such a purpose this evidence was plainly legitimate; it came within the rule laid down in Disbrow v. Durand, 25 Vroom 343;  that, in cases like this, a reasonable and proper expectation that there would be compensation must, and hence may, be shown.  The bargain thus exhibited is not one on which an action at law could be maintained, because it related to land, and was not susceptible of such proof as the statute of frauds requires; but when, in pursuance of a bargain, for this reason unenforceable, services have been rendered, the legal remedy is by an action on the quantum meruit for the value of the services.  As was said in Stone v. Todd, 20 Vroom 274, 281, the intended devise was but the method of paying an admitted obligation, and, if payment in that manner be not made, the creditor is entitled to recover the value of the services.

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