Law School Case Brief
Klockner v. Green - 54 N.J. 230, 254 A.2d 782 (1969)
The rule that a statute of frauds is not to be used to work a fraud is well settled. Oral contracts which are performed by one party are frequently enforced where to do otherwise would work an inequity on the party who performs. Such performance takes the contract out of the statute of frauds.
Plaintiffs, stepson and step-granddaughter, brought an action to enforce an alleged oral contract between the deceased and plaintiffs obligating the deceased to bequeath her estate to plaintiffs in return for their services to her during their lifetime. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss brought by defendant, executor and next of kin.
Was the decedent's oral promise to bequeath her property to plaintiffs enforceable?
On appeal, the court reversed and remanded. The court held that a valid contract was entered into between plaintiffs and deceased. The evidence supported the existence of a bargain by deceased and her belief that she had contracted with plaintiffs. Her attempt to execute a will, which was stymied by her superstitions that a will was a sign of impending death, and the testimony of her attorney were strong evidence of her intent to carry out the bargain. Specific performance was the proper remedy because the law furnished no standard whereby the value of services to a loved one were measurable. It was incumbent in equity to accept the estimate of their value made by the party requesting the services, by decreeing specific performance of the agreement.
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