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Sharpe Furniture, Inc. v. Buckstaff - 99 Wis. 2d 114, 299 N.W.2d 219 (1980)

Rule:

When an item or service is obtained for the benefit of the family which is necessary and no payment for that item or service has been made, the elements of an action for an implied-in-law contract exist and the husband is primarily liable. In light of the proper function of the necessaries rule in relation to the support of the family, in the absence of an express contract to the contrary, a husband incurs the primary obligation, implied as a matter of law, to assume liability for the necessaries which have been procured for the sustenance of his family.

Facts:

The wife purchased a sofa from respondent on credit. Wife did not represent that she was acting on behalf of her husband (appellant), and appellant had previously written a letter to the local credit bureau service stating that he would not be responsible for any credit extended to his wife. The wife and the appellant failed to pay for the sofa, and respondent sued both spouses. The district court held that wife was liable for the amount due on the sofa pursuant to her contract and that appellant was also liable under the doctrine of necessaries. The appellate court affirmed the judgment.

Issue:

Is the husband liable for reasonable and necessary items bought by the wife?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the judgment because the doctrine remained viable, the sofa was a reasonable and proper item for appellant and wife's household, and there was an inference of reasonable need. The doctrine of necessaries provides that the husband is under legal obligations to support his wife, and nothing but wrongful conduct on her part can free him from such obligation. If he fails to provide her with suitable and proper necessaries, any third person who does provide her therewith, may maintain an action against him for the same.

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