Snyder v. Nixon

Decision Date16 March 1920
Docket Number33204
PartiesANNA SNYDER, Appellee, v. JOHN NIXON, Administrator, Appellant
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Appeal from Dallas District Court.--GEORGE B. LYNCH, Judge.

ACTION against a deceased person, father of claimant, for services rendered. Judgment was rendered in favor of plaintiff. The administrator appeals.


White & Clarke and D. H. Miller, for appellant.

E. W Dingwell, for appellee.




On the 11th day of April, 1918, the plaintiff herein, Anna Snyder filed in the district court of Dallas County her claim against the administrator of the estate of one Nixon, Sr., for services rendered the deceased during his lifetime. A trial was had to a jury, and a verdict returned for the claimant, and the administrator appeals.

Anna Snyder, the plaintiff, is the daughter of the deceased. The claim is for services rendered in care, board, and washing, and for money advanced and lodging furnished the deceased during a period commencing December 24, 1913, and ending January 27, 1918.

The record discloses that, for a few years prior to December, 1913, deceased was living in South Dakota, at the town of Lemmon, and owned some property there,--at least a home; that he was taken violently sick, and sent for this daughter; that, on the 24th day of December, 1913, she went to him, and removed him from a hotel, at which he was lying sick, to his home, and there aided in caring for him until about the 7th day of February, 1914. On that date, she removed him to her home in Iowa, and there cared for him, administered to his wants, and fed, clothed, and housed him, until his death, which occurred on January 27, 1918. All questions as to the character and value of the services rendered have been settled by the verdict of the jury.

The defendant presents two propositions for reversal:

(1) That the deceased was a member of plaintiff's family at the time the services were rendered, and it is, therefore, presumed that the services were gratuitous.

(2) That no express promise to pay for the services is shown, and there is no such showing of expectation of receiving and making compensation as the law requires, to overcome the presumption that the services were gratuitous.

The general rule is that, where one renders services of value to another, with his knowledge and consent, the presumption is that the one rendering the services expects to be compensated, and that the one to whom the services are rendered intends to pay for the same; and so the law implies a promise to pay. Where, however, the family relationship exists, between the one seeking to recover and the one sought to be charged, and services are rendered one to the other within the family, the presumption is that they were rendered gratuitously. This rests upon common experience, that members of the same family, while the family relationship exists, do not usually expect to be remunerated, and do not usually expect to make remuneration for services rendered by one to the other, rendered within the family circle. The duties are reciprocal, and the services are presumed to be reciprocal. A member of a family, rendering services to another member of the same family, where the services rendered grow out of the reciprocal duties of that family relationship, and are within the scope and purpose of the family organization, cannot recover therefor, unless there is an express promise to pay for the services, or unless the showing made negatives the thought that they were gratuitous, or, that is, unless it is shown that they are rendered under such circumstances as makes it manifest that there was both an expectation of receiving remuneration and an intention of paying for the services. This doctrine last stated was laid down in Scully v. Scully, 28 Iowa 548, and has been followed ever since. The rule generally stated is that, where one renders services for another which are known to and accepted by the other, the law implies a promise on his part to pay therefor; but, where the party served is a member of the family of the person serving, a presumption arises that such services are gratuitous. This presumption only arises when the family relationship is shown. We might add to that that it only arises when it is shown that the services were such as members of the family usually and ordinarily render to each other, because of and growing out of the family relationship. A family has been defined as follows:

"A collection or collective body of persons, not necessarily related, but living under one roof, and under one head or management."

The relationship is not always controlling, though it is a large factor in determining the intent of the parties. The intent to pay may be inferred from facts tending to negative the presumption that they were rendered and accepted as a gratuity. In the instant case, the plaintiff was a poor woman, living with her husband and children, in a state distant from the home of the deceased. Her husband was a laboring man, with but a small income. Deceased was taken sick in Dakota, and sent for this daughter. She came to him in Dakota, took and nursed him through his sickness there, brought him to her home, and nursed and cared for him until his death. During all this time, deceased was feeble in mind and body. Soon after his return, he was placed under guardianship. He was a man of means; while plaintiff had no means of sustaining him, except through the aid of her husband, who was a janitor in a small school in the little town in which he lived. It does not appear that deceased did any work, or that any work was exacted of him. There were no reciprocal services exacted or rendered, nor was he capable of rendering reciprocal services, in even the slightest degree, during the time he remained with the plaintiff. These facts may not be sufficient in themselves to overcome the presumption (see In re Estate of Squire, 168 Iowa 597, 150 N.W. 706), yet they have probative force, and are entitled to be considered by the jury in determining the ultimate question as to whether or not there was an intention on his part to compensate for the services rendered, and they have some probative force in negativing the thought that the services were rendered with no intention on his part to compensate his daughter therefor. See In re Estate of Bishop, 130 Iowa 250, 106 N.W. 637, and cases therein cited.

While it is true, as an abstract proposition, that, when it is shown that a person receiving the services is a member of the family which renders the services, and receives support therein, either as a child, a relative, or a visitor, a presumption arises that such services are gratuitous, still it does not follow, necessarily, that one who, though sustaining the relationship from which otherwise the presumption might arise, comes into the family of a child in indigent circumstances, at his own request, receives support, and renders no services, because he is at all times wholly incapable of rendering reciprocal services, and who is capable of maintaining himself and...

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