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Scherer v. Hyland

Law Dictionary

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Property Law Keyed to Cribbet

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.75 N.J. 127, 380 A.2d 698 (1977)

Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff, Mr. Scherer, lived with Decedent for fifteen years. The Decedent was injured in a car wreck and became very depressed. She received a settlement check from a lawsuit over the wreck and endorsed the check and left a suicide note which stated her intent to give all her possessions to Plaintiff, including the check, and then jumped to her death.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The gift causa mortis is valid where there is evidence of the donor’s intent to make the transfer and the facts here support a finding that the rule requiring delivery of the gift should be relaxed because the situation is incompatible with making actual delivery.

Facts. Catherine Wagner (Decedent) and the Plaintiff, Robert Scherer, lived together for approximately fifteen years before Wagner’s death in 1974. In 1970 the couple were involved in a car wreck which left Wagner with facial wounds and a broken hip which forced her to give up her job. Wagner became seriously depressed. After the accident Plaintiff assumed the responsibility to care for Wagner as well as her finances. Wagner had at one time attempted suicide by slashing her wrists. On January 23, 1974, Wagner committed suicide by jumping from the roof of the apartment building in which housed her and the Plaintiff’s apartment. On that same day, prior to the jump, Wagner had received a check for $17,400.00, in settlement for the injuries sustained in the car wreck. Plaintiff endorsed the check in blank, then wrote a suicide note to Scherer which “bequeathed” to Plaintiff all her possessions including the check for $17,400.00. Then, Wagner jumped to her death. The police, in investigat
ing the death, entered the apartment and found the note and the check. The check was taken as evidence and eventually deposited in an interest bearing account pending the outcome of the litigation. Plaintiff sued the administrator of the Decedent’s estate for the money, based on the theory that the writing and the check indicated a desire by the Decedent to make a gift causa mortis to Plaintiff. The trial court found that a valid gift causa mortis of the check had been made and the intermediate appellate court affirmed. The administrator of the Decedent’s estate appealed.

Issue. Were the steps taken by the decedent, independent of the writing of the suicide note, sufficient to establish that Decedent had made a lifetime transfer of the check to Plaintiff Scherer as a gift causa mortis?
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