Brief Fact Summary.
The Plaintiff alleged she and the Defendant had been holding themselves out as husband and wife since 1952 and they had two children together. She sought to recover from Defendant on both implied and express contact theories for the “housewifely” duties she had performed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
An express agreement between unmarried persons living together is as enforceable as though they were not living together
While cohabitation without marriage does not give rise to the property and financial rights which normally attend the marital relation, neither does cohabitation disable the parties from making an agreement within the normal rules of contract law.View Full Point of Law
The Plaintiff’s implied contract allegation was that she had performed household and business duties for the Defendant at his request, and that the Defendant was aware that she expected compensation for those services.
The Plaintiff also alleged that an express contract had been formed in 1952 when she and Defendant entered into a partnership agreement where it was agreed she would perform domestic services and the Defendant would have full charge of business transactions, and the profits of the partnership would be split equally between them.
The Special Term dismissed the complaint, concluding that Plaintiff sought recovery for “housewifely” duties for which no recovery could be had. The Appellate Division affirmed.
Were the Plaintiff’s causes of action properly dismissed?
· The first cause of action was properly dismissed, as the courts have historically declined to recognize a contract which is implied from the rendition and acceptance of services.
· The second cause of action is sustained. Changes in society have greatly increased the number of unmarried persons living together, and there is no statutory requirement that such a contract as Plaintiff alleged be in writing.
· The notion of an implied contract between unmarried couples living together is contrary to both New York decisional law and the implication arising from our Legislature’s abolition of common law marriage.
· The Court rejected the presumption that services of any type are more likely the result of a personal, rather than contractual bond, or that it’s reasonable to infer that there was no contract simply because the payment was not in periodic installments.