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Tuckwiller v. Tuckwiller

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Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff Ruby Tuckwiller entered into an agreement to quit her job and care for the aunt of her husband, Metta Hudson Morrison, in exchange for Morrison willing her Morrison’s Corum farm. Morrison made an appointment to have her will changed, but she was hospitalized and eventually died without the will being changed. The will stated that the farm shall be sold and the proceeds to be used for a student loan fund at Davidson College.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. A transaction is to be examined prospectively rather than retrospectively in order to determine whether a contract is unconscionable, requiring a denial of specific performance.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

As stated in one of the leading cases the enforcement of contracts of the character here involved is an exception which courts of equity have ingrafted upon the statute of frauds.

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Facts. Plaintiff and her husband, John Tuckwiller, resided on the Hudson family farm in Missouri. Nearly half of the property was owned by Morrison. Morrison contracted Parkinson’s disease when she was about 70 years old and gave up her residence in New York. At first, Morrison traveled but eventually returned to the Hudson farm. After some health problems and because Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, Morrison urged Plaintiff to quit her job and care for Morrison. Plaintiff assented, and the two reached a written agreement providing that Plaintiff would quit her job and care for Morrison in exchange for Morrison leaving Plaintiff a farm in her will. Plaintiff quit her job, and Morrison made an appointment to change her will. Before it could be changed, however, Morrison became ill and never recovered. The unchanged will stated that the farm shall be sold and the proceeds would be used for a student loan fund at Davidson College. Plaintiff sued for specific performance of the writ
ten contract.

Issue. Is the contract between Plaintiff and Morrison enforceable against the estate of Morrison?

Held. Yes. In order to determine whether a contract is unfair, inequitable, or unconscionable, the transaction is to be viewed prospectively. Plaintiff quit her job and undertook a serious and difficult obligation of unknown duration. Morrison had someone to care for her for life. Viewing the contract in this light, the agreement was fair, not unconscionable, and supported by adequate consideration.

Discussion. That Plaintiff received somewhat of a windfall by receiving the property without having to actually care for Morrison is of no relevance in a discussion of whether the agreement was unconscionable, unfair, or inequitable. Rather, the trial court must look at the deal as of the time it was consummated.

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