Pyeatte v. Pyeatte

135 Ariz. 346, 661 P.2d 196 (Ct. App. 1982)



Although the terms and requirements of an enforceable contract need not be stated in minute detail, it is fundamental that, in order to be binding, an agreement must be definite and certain so that the liability of the parties may be exactly fixed. Terms necessary for the required definiteness frequently include time of performance, place of performance, price or compensation, penalty provisions, and other material requirements of the agreement. 


Appellant husband and appellee wife agreed she would put him through law school without his having to work, and when he finished, he would put her through for her masters degree without her having to work. However, after appellant finished law school and before his wife started her master's program, he divorced her. Appellee sued for breach of contract which the court ruled in her favor. Appellant husband sought review of the decision. The portion of the judgment with the amount of damages ($23,000.00) awarded was reversed and remanded for proceedings in accordance with the court's opinion.


Was the award of damages amounting to $23,000.00 proper?




The agreement lacks a number of other essential terms which prevent it from becoming binding. Although the court found that the agreement was not an enforceable contract, the court held that the agreement had importance in considering wife's claim for unjust enrichment because it both evidenced her expectation of compensation and the circumstances which made it unjust to allow the husband to retain the benefits of her efforts. The court held that the wife was entitled to restitution because she conferred benefits on the husband (financial subsidization of his legal education) with the agreement and expectation that she would be compensated therefor by his reciprocal efforts after his graduation and admission to the bar. The husband left the marriage with the only valuable asset acquired during the marriage (his legal education and qualification to practice law). The court held it would be inequitable to allow the husband to retain the benefit without making restitution to wife.

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