Fitzpatrick v. Michael

177 Md. 248



Under the Statute of Frauds, a contract that is not going to be performed within a year must be in writing. The principle of equity can bar application of the Statute of Frauds where there has been partial performance. However, in order for equity to bar this application, there must be a remedy available. The notion of equity will not enforce contracts for personal services.


Plaintiff agreed to provide services and care for the defendant in exchange for $8 per week and board while the defendant was alive, and a life estate and the defendant's cars at death. Defendant was happy with the services for two years, but changed his mind after talking to family. Defendant tried to kick the plaintiff out, left the home himself, and turned off the utilities. However, plaintiff wouldn't leave. Defendant eventually had plaintiff arrested for trespass. Plaintiff sought specific performance under the parties' contract, and the defendant moved to dismiss for lack of equity. Defendant's motion was granted and plaintiff's complaint was dismissed. Plaintiff appeals from this dismissal.  


Was plaintiff was entitled to any relief from the defendant?




In affirming the dismissal, the Court found that there was no remedy available to the plaintiff in the matter. The services portion of the contract did not fall within the Statute of Frauds, because it was capable of being performed within one year (if the defendant had died within the year). However, the life estate fell within the Statute of Frauds, and was not enforceable. Though the Court looked to not apply the Statute, it had to do so because there was no other remedy available to the Plaintiff. The personal services performed were services which involved no unusual skills. Enforcing the contract would have meant forcing the defendant to accept personal services against his will, which the Court could not make the defendant to. It affirmed the lower court's ruling because there was no relief available to the plaintiff.

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