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Borelli v. Brusseau

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellant Borelli, entered into a contract with her late husband to provide nursing care for him at home in exchange for property. Appellant’s husband did not leave her the promised property in his will. Appellant is bringing this claim against Appellee Brusseau, also the executor of her husband’s estate, to recover the promised property.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Contracts between spouses to provide care during illness in exchange for compensation violate public policy.

    Facts. Appellant and her late husband entered into a prenuptial agreement. After being hospitalized with heart problems, Appellant’s husband became concerned about his health and told Appellant he intended to leave her an interest in a lot, a life estate in a condominium, a twenty-five percent interest in Borelli Meat Co., cash remaining in all of his bank accounts at his death, costs of educating Appellant’s daughter, all of his interest in a residence, all furniture in the residence, his interest in a partnership, and health insurance for Appellant and her daughter.
    Later, Appellant’s husband suffered a stroke. He indicated to Appellant that he did not want to be in a hospital or nursing home. So her husband could stay at home, Appellant agreed to care for him in exchange for the aforementioned property. Appellant cared for her husband until his death, but her husband’s will did not give her the property he promised to her.

    Issue. Does a contract for a spouse to provide care for an ill spouse in exchange for compensation violate public policy?

    Held. Yes. A contract for a spouse to provide care for an ill spouse in exchange for compensation violates public policy.
    Spouses have a duty to support each other. This duty includes caring for an ill spouse. Because a spouse already has a duty to provide care for an ill spouse, to allow a spouse to contract for compensation in exchange providing that care would violate public policy.
    Appellant argues that the public policy invalidation of such contract is based on “outdated views of the role of women and marriage.” The Court disagrees pointing out that public policy invalidation has been applied to both husbands and wives in various areas of law.

    Dissent. The dissenting opinion disagrees with the majority on several points. First, the dissent does not find a preexisting duty for spouses to provide the type of nursing care involved in the present case. Second, the dissent argues that the policy is inconsistent with modern attitudes and mores. Third, the dissenting opinion argues that spouses should be able to contract with each other in the same way as non-married persons. Fourth, the dissent makes a distinction between the duty to care for an ill spouse and the duty to personally care for an ill spouse

    Discussion. In the present case, the Court holds that a contract between Appellant and her husband for Appellant to care for him in exchange for property violates public policy.


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