Stowe v. Smith

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore BOGDANSKI; BOGDANSKI
Citation441 A.2d 81,184 Conn. 194
PartiesHarvey H. STOWE v. Earle W. SMITH.
Decision Date12 May 1981

Page 81

441 A.2d 81
184 Conn. 194
Harvey H. STOWE
v.
Earle W. SMITH.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued March 4, 1981.
Decided May 12, 1981.

Page 82

John S. Barton, Bridgeport, with whom, on the brief, was William B. Rush, Bridgeport, for appellants (plaintiffs).

[184 Conn. 195] Ralph G. Eddy, New Haven, for appellees (defendants).

Before [184 Conn. 194] BOGDANSKI, C.J., and PETERS, HEALEY, ARMENTANO and SHEA, JJ.

[184 Conn. 195] BOGDANSKI, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from the action of the trial court in granting a motion to strike the plaintiff's substituted complaint.

The original complaint made the following allegations. The plaintiff's mother instructed the defendant, an attorney at law, to prepare a will which would provide that one-half of her estate be held in trust for the plaintiff; that when the plaintiff attained the age of fifty the assets of the trust would be distributed to him; but that upon the plaintiff's death prior to attaining the age of fifty, the assets of the trust would be distributed to the plaintiff's issue. The defendant informed the mother that he had prepared the will in accordance with her instructions including, specifically, the exact provision she had requested for the plaintiff. She did not read the will, but executed it in reliance on the defendant's representations. Six days later she died. The will was admitted to probate before the plaintiff discovered that it did not conform to his mother's instructions. Instead, the will provided that when the plaintiff attained the age of fifty or upon his earlier death the principal of the trust would be distributed to his issue. Claiming that the defendant's mistake is preparing the will invalidated it, the plaintiff appealed the probate of the will. In an effort to mitigate damages, however, he ultimately settled that appeal. The settlement allowed the plaintiff three-fourths of the share he would have received had the will conformed to his mother's instructions.

The trial court granted a motion to strike the original complaint on the ground that it lacked an allegation that the defendant intended to assume a [184 Conn. 196] direct obligation to the plaintiff. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a substituted complaint which repeated the allegations of the original complaint but further alleged that the testatrix and the defendant intended that the defendant, by his agreement to prepare her will in accordance with her instructions, would assume a direct obligation to the intended beneficiaries of the testatrix.

In his substituted complaint the plaintiff seeks to recover damages as a third party beneficiary of the defendant's agreement with the testatrix to prepare her will in accordance with her instructions. On a motion to strike that challenges the sufficiency of a complaint to state a cause of action, all well pleaded facts are admitted. England v. Coventry, --- Conn. ---, ---, 439 A.2d 375 (42 Conn.L.J., No. 40, pp. 1, 2) (1981); and the allegations of the complaint must be construed most favorably to the plaintiff. McAdam v. Sheldon, 153 Conn. 278, 280, 216 A.2d 193 (1965).

We have stated that a third party seeking to enforce a contract must allege and prove that the contracting parties intended

Page 83

that the promisor should assume a direct obligation to the third party. 1 [184 Conn. 197] Byram Lumber & Supply Co. v. Page, 109 Conn. 256, 259, 146 A. 293 (1929). See Knapp v. New Haven Road Construction Co., 150 Conn. 321, 325, 189 A.2d 386 (1963); Congress & Daggett, Inc. v. Seamless Rubber Co., 145 Conn. 318, 324, 142 A.2d 137 (1958); Colonial Discount Co. v. Avon Motors, Inc., 137 Conn. 196, 200, 75 A.2d 507 (1950); Pavano v. Western National Ins. Co., 139 Conn. 645, 648, 96 A.2d 470 (1953). See also Baurer v. Devenis, 99 Conn. 203, 121 A. 566 (1923). On the basis of the new allegations, we conclude that the substituted complaint sets forth a cause of action for the plaintiff as a third party beneficiary of a contract.

We reject the defendant's argument that as a matter of law a promisor cannot intend to assume a direct obligation to a third party unless the promisor's performance is to be rendered directly to that party. Contracts for the benefit of a third party are enforceable without any requirement that the promisor's performance be rendered directly to the intended beneficiary. Lucas v. Hamm, 56 Cal.2d 583, 590, 15 Cal.Rptr. 821, 364 P.2d 685 (1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 987, 82 S.Ct....

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95 practice notes
  • Pasco Common Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. Benson, AC 39898
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 10, 2019
    ...of whether a claim sounds in tort or contract sometimes is a binary determination, that is not always the case. See Stowe v. Smith , 184 Conn. 194, 199, 441 A.2d 81 (1981) (some complaints allege both contract and tort); Doe v. Boy Scouts of America Corp. , 323 Conn. 303, 342, 147 A.3d 104 ......
  • Barcelo v. Elliott, No. 95-0341
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • May 10, 1996
    ...583, 15 Cal.Rptr. 821, 825, 364 P.2d 685, 689 (1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 987, 82 S.Ct. 603, 7 L.Ed.2d 525 (1962); Stowe v. Smith, 184 Conn. 194, 441 A.2d 81, 83 (1981); Needham v. Hamilton, 459 A.2d 1060, 1062 (D.C.1983); DeMaris v. Asti, 426 So.2d 1153, 1154 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1983); Ogl......
  • Vinson & Elkins v. Moran, No. 14-95-00348-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • March 27, 1997
    ...other states have limited the class of plaintiffs to beneficiaries specifically identified in the will or trust. Compare Stowe v. Smith, 184 Conn. 194, 441 A.2d 81, 83 (1981) (allowing those claiming to be intended beneficiaries to sue attorney for malpractice) with Schreiner v. Scoville, 4......
  • Devlin v. U.S., Docket No. 02-6128.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • December 12, 2003
    ...and in recognizing an intended heir's cause of action against a lawyer for the negligent drawing of a will, see Stowe v. Smith, 184 Conn. 194, 441 A.2d 81, 84 (Conn. 1981); Krawczyk v. Stingle, Page 543 208 Conn. 239, 543 A.2d 733, 735 (Conn. 1988).23 It follows that, under either the unifo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
95 cases
  • Pasco Common Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. Benson, AC 39898
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 10, 2019
    ...of whether a claim sounds in tort or contract sometimes is a binary determination, that is not always the case. See Stowe v. Smith , 184 Conn. 194, 199, 441 A.2d 81 (1981) (some complaints allege both contract and tort); Doe v. Boy Scouts of America Corp. , 323 Conn. 303, 342, 147 A.3d 104 ......
  • Barcelo v. Elliott, No. 95-0341
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • May 10, 1996
    ...583, 15 Cal.Rptr. 821, 825, 364 P.2d 685, 689 (1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 987, 82 S.Ct. 603, 7 L.Ed.2d 525 (1962); Stowe v. Smith, 184 Conn. 194, 441 A.2d 81, 83 (1981); Needham v. Hamilton, 459 A.2d 1060, 1062 (D.C.1983); DeMaris v. Asti, 426 So.2d 1153, 1154 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1983); Ogl......
  • Vinson & Elkins v. Moran, No. 14-95-00348-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • March 27, 1997
    ...other states have limited the class of plaintiffs to beneficiaries specifically identified in the will or trust. Compare Stowe v. Smith, 184 Conn. 194, 441 A.2d 81, 83 (1981) (allowing those claiming to be intended beneficiaries to sue attorney for malpractice) with Schreiner v. Scoville, 4......
  • Devlin v. U.S., Docket No. 02-6128.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • December 12, 2003
    ...and in recognizing an intended heir's cause of action against a lawyer for the negligent drawing of a will, see Stowe v. Smith, 184 Conn. 194, 441 A.2d 81, 84 (Conn. 1981); Krawczyk v. Stingle, Page 543 208 Conn. 239, 543 A.2d 733, 735 (Conn. 1988).23 It follows that, under either the unifo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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