It is fundamental that a marriage contract differs from other contractual relations in that there exists a definite and vital public interest in reference to the marriage relation.
After suffering a stroke, Michael J. Borelli entered into an oral agreement with his wife, Hildegard L. Borelli, whereby he promised to leave her certain property in exchange for her agreement to care for him at home for the duration of his illness, thereby avoiding the need for him to move to a nursing home. Although Hildegard performed her promise, Michael did not perform his. Instead, he left the bulk of his estate to his daughter Grace G. Brusseau upon his death. Hildegard sought specific performance of Michael's promise. The trial court dismissed her complaint after sustaining the demurrer by Grace, the executor of the estate, on the grounds that the agreement was without consideration, and was void as against public policy.
Was the oral agreement between Michael and Hildegard, husband and wife--whereby Michael promised to leave certain property to Hildegard in exchange for her agreement to care for him at home for the duration of his illness--valid?
The court determined that the weight of statutory authority and case precedent held that a wife was obligated by the marriage contract to provide nursing-type care to an ill husband. Therefore the court held that personal performance of a personal duty created by the contract of marriage did not constitute a new consideration supporting the indebtedness alleged by the wife, Hildegard L. Borelli. Accordingly the judgment of the trial court was affirmed.