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Oral Contract

Discussion in 'Car Sales, Dealers, Repairs, Lemon Law' started by gramstrustee, Jan 29, 2005.

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  1. gramstrustee

    gramstrustee Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Recently elderly aunt moved in with us and her husband to age issues. I had POA on sale of their home. As we did not have the transportation to meet their needs, they stated that they would purchase a car for us as a gift for all that we did for them over the years. (We never accepted any other assets from them). I was named as a co-executor on their trust. They also agreed while living here that they would pay their portion of phone bill, their own medical costs, and 1/2 of all grocery bills. After 3 weeks of physical and mental health issues regarding one of the elders, she flipped out and the went back to the state they came from. Now they refuse to pay me for any of the items that we agreed to. I also have a bounced check from them which could be handled in small claims court yet want to know if this can be pursued n a civil action.
     
  2. NYClex

    NYClex New Member

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    I know that dealing with elderly people can be very tricky. I wonder if the courts will be a solution for that problem.

    Their promise to buy you a car "as a gift for what you have done for them in the last years" is a classical example of a promise that is probably unenforceable. The law defines a contract as a "set of promises that were exchanged after they have been bargained for." A "gratuitious promise", the promise to give a gift, is not bargained for, it lacks consideration as the jurists say, and therefore is in most cases unenforceable. There are some exceptions to this rule, which basically come down to the point, that when you relied on their promise to your detriment and this was foreseeable, then it could be enforceable if there is no other way to prevent injustice.

    Example: Joe wants to move in with his in-laws. Both don't own a truck. To move all his belongings Joe says to Bill, his dad in-law, "As a thank you I will buy you a truck, and then we can move my stuff." Bill relies on that and goes and buys a pickup truck. Suddenly Joe does not want to move any more and refuses to pay for the truck. Here Joe could have foreseen that Bill would go and buy a truck, therefore detrimentally rely on Joe's promise, and therefore the promise might be enforceable.

    As you can see this is a very specific exception. In most cases one of these elements is missing, very often for example you cannot say that the promisor could have foreseen that the promisee relied on that promise.

    Most cases rather go like this: Grandma says to grandson on his 16th birthday: When you are 18 I will buy you a car. Grandson turns 18, grandma has Alzheimers and long forgotten her promise. There is nothing grandson can do. There is no "contract" between them, because he has not given anything in exchange, any "consideration." There also are no elements of promissory estoppel, the exception I mentioned above. He is out of luck.

    So I would not hang my hopes onto that.

    You might have a little better chance at getting reimbursed for the cost of living expenses that accrued while they were living there, but I would wonder if the amount is worth the effort and aggravation of going to court. You would have to prove the costs, and you would have to convince the judge that there actually was an oral contract or at least an implied contract. The law is reluctant to enforce promises made in "social settings".

    Leaves the bounced check. If it was made out to you you probably have a good chance to enforce that, if you can show what it was for. But again, the question is if it is worth it.

    Of course, as always, this can only be an overview of the law. To really evaluate your case one would need to know all the details. You would have to consult an attorney for that.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2005
  3. gramstrustee

    gramstrustee Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Additional Questions

    So the fact that we purchased this car because the 2 autos we had would not accomodate them. An example both were 2 doors and one of the grandparents could not climb in and out of the back seat. And also did not have room in the trunk for 2 wheelchairs and a walker.

    Also I do have receipts for everything, always kept them in a separate folder for him so when it came time to write the check he would have it.
     

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