Implied Contract • Oral Contract • Funding of Son’s Criminal Defense • Consideration • Specificity

Micaletti v. McIltrot, PICS Case No. 13-3360 (C.P. Lawrence Dec. 2, 2013) Cox, J. (13 pages).

Plaintiff’s complaint stated sufficient facts to establish that defendant breached an implied-in-fact contract when she failed to pay her equal share of the costs of posting bond and paying for the criminal defense of their son, but plaintiff’s claim of breach of an oral contract was insufficiently specific as to formation of the contract. Preliminary objections sustained in part; overruled in part.

Plaintiff husband and defendant wife had a son who was charged with rape and related offenses by the Slippery Rock police. According to plaintiff, he and defendant agreed to share equally the costs of their son’s bond and defense. Plaintiff alleged that he paid $5,500 of the defense attorney’s $6,460 fee, $3,500 to the bail bondsman, $2,401 to a private investigator, and $400 for a polygraph examination.

Plaintiff sued defendant for breach of an implied-in-fact contract and breach of an oral contract. Defendant filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to both counts.

The court overruled defendant’s objection to plaintiff’s first claim. The court observed that according to plaintiff’s averments, the parties agreed to be equally responsible for their son’s bond and defense. The parties and their son met with their son’s attorney and agreed to retain him. The averments also indicated that both parties received detailed billing statements from the attorney, both parties were actively involved in communicating with the attorney, and both parties agreed to hire a private investigator and polygraph examiner. The averments, the court concluded, indicated actions sufficient to establish an implied-in-fact contract.

The court also overruled defendant’s argument that the complaint failed to allege that any benefit or valid consideration flowed from plaintiff to defendant. Citing Marshall v. Marshall, 61 Pa. Super. 513 (1915), the court observed that “the love and affection of a parent may create a duty in that parent’s conscience to help that child, which is adequate consideration for a contract.” The court concluded that plaintiff’s averments, which indicated that defendant agreed to spend funds to aid her child in exchange for plaintiff’s promise to share in the cost of defending their child, stated adequate consideration.

The court sustained defendant’s objections to plaintiff’s breach of oral contract claim, however, because the complaint did not state that the terms of the offer were definite, or that there was an unequivocal acceptance transmitted to the offeror, and the averments supporting it lacked sufficient specificity to allow defendant to form an appropriate defense. The court therefore granted plaintiff leave to amend his complaint.