Law School Case Brief
Morrow v. Morrow - 1980 OK CIV APP 17, 612 P.2d 730
A factual definition of family not solely related to legal concepts of consanguinity is endorsed by the courts. It is the reality that matters. Where a group of persons reflect reciprocal duties of a natural, or moral nature for support and care, there is a family relationship with respect to the factual presumption that most family arrangements are not contractual in nature. Where this relationship exists, the assumption that the arrangement is not intended to be attended with contractual consequences is appropriate.
Plaintiffs, Warren and Betty Morrow (husband and wife), brought this action to recover for services rendered to the decedent Maude Morrow, mother of Warren and Defendant Woodye Morrow. They also sought to set aside a conveyance of certain mineral interests from Woodye to Defendant Dennis M. Morrow, Woodye's son. This conveyance was made without consideration. Woodye had acquired title from Maude by warranty deed. At trial the District Court, sitting without a jury as chancellor, found the evidence insufficient to support the Plaintiffs' claim for services but ordered the mineral conveyance set aside and the proceeds of the surface sale (less certain expenses) and mineral rights be evenly distributed to eight surviving children of Maude. Plaintiffs appealed, on the theory was that after receiving title to Maude's real property, Woodye orally agreed with Plaintiffs that if they would care for Maude that on her death Woodye would sell the property and first pay the Plaintiffs for the care of Maude and divide the remainder equally among her heirs.
Was there an oral contract between Woodye and Plaintiffs, Woody's brother and sister-in-law, entitling the Plaintiffs to payment for services?
The appellate court affirmed; although any contract between the parties regarding services to the decedent only had to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, family arrangements were not normally expected to be contractual in nature unless there was evidence that the parties expected to be legally bound. Plaintiffs failed to sustain their burden that the parties intended for their arrangement to be contractual.
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