Variety Children's Hospital, Inc. v. Vigliotti

Decision Date10 June 1980
Docket NumberNo. 79-959,79-959
Citation385 So.2d 1052
PartiesVARIETY CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, INC., Appellant, v. Jean VIGLIOTTI, Appellee.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Atkinson, Golden, Bacen & Diner and Constance J. Kaplan, Hollywood, for appellant.

Mason & Meyerson and John C. Maine, Jr., Miami, for appellee.

Before BARKDULL and BASKIN, JJ., and EZELL, BOYCE F., Jr. (Ret.), Associate Judge.

BASKIN, Judge.

Variety Children's Hospital appeals from a final order dismissing its complaint against Jean Vigliotti for payment for medical services rendered to her minor child. The trial court found that a written agreement to pay, signed by the father at the time of the child's admission, superseded any implied contract against the mother and foreclosed any possibility of liability on her part. We disagree and reverse.

The amended complaint alleged that the minor child was admitted to the hospital for necessary medical services. 1 At the time of the admission, the father agreed in writing to pay all charges not covered by insurance. The mother knew of the admission but did not object to the child receiving medical services. 2 Eventually, the hospital filed suit seeking payment under the express contract between the father and the hospital. In a separate count of the amended complaint, the hospital sought to recover from the mother, pursuant to an implied contract, because she "never objected to the rendition of the services and benefited from these services as administered to her minor child . . . ." A default was entered against the father, and the mother filed a motion to dismiss the complaint as to her.

The trial court held that the hospital looked to the father for payment of the $8,799.25 when it obtained an agreement in writing and that there was no basis to hold the mother liable. According to the statement of facts stipulated to for appellate purposes, the trial court found that the written contract superseded any implied contract. The court, noting recent changes in the law concerning the duty to support a child, stated that if neither parent had signed, it would have found both parents liable. If both parents had signed, it would have found both liable, but where only one parent had executed a written contract, that contract represented the agreement to the exclusion of any implied contract.

We must determine whether the express contract executed by the father bars the hospital from pursuing a suit against the mother for services rendered to the child either on an implied in fact contract or on a contract implied in law. Although we find that the facts peculiar to this case do not support an implied in fact contract, accord, Nursing Care Services, Inc. v. Dobos, 380 So.2d 516 (Fla. 4th DCA 1980), we hold that the hospital may pursue a claim against the mother on the basis of an implied in law contract stemming from her statutory duty to support her child.

Quasi-contracts are obligations imposed by law on grounds of justice and equity. They are imposed for the purpose of preventing unjust enrichment. Unlike express contracts or contracts implied in fact, quasi-contracts do not rest upon the assent of the contracting parties. Quasi-contracts are based primarily upon a benefit flowing to the person sought to be charged. The person unjustly enriched is required to compensate the person furnishing the benefit. Tipper v. Great Lakes Chemical Company, 281 So.2d 10 (Fla. 1973). Thus, the preliminary question in determining whether the law should imply a contract in this case turns upon whether the mother has been unjustly enriched, and that determination turns upon whether the mother has an obligation or legal duty that has been satisfied by the efforts of another.

Traditionally, the father had the primary duty to support his wife and children. Walborsky v. Walborsky, 197 So.2d 853 (Fla. 1st DCA 1967). The mother could be called upon to provide for the family only when the father could not fulfill this obligation. See State v. S.M.G., 313 So.2d 761 (Fla. 1975); Copeland v. Copeland, 65 So.2d 853 (Fla. 1953); and Bullard v. Bullard, 195 So.2d 876 (Fla. 2d DCA 1967). Recently, however, "the unity concept of marriage has in a large part given way to the partner concept whereby a woman stands as an equal to her husband in the eyes of the law." Gates v. Foley, 247 So.2d 40, 44 (Fla. 1971). This trend was embodied in a sweeping reformation of the law which now places the mother and father on an equal footing in relation to their obligations to support their minor children. Birge v. Simpson, 280 So.2d 482 (Fla. 1st DCA 1973); § 61.001, et seq., Fla.Stat. (1971). As stated in Kern v. Kern, 360 So.2d 482, 484 (Fla. 4th DCA 1978):

The duty to provide support for a minor child is based upon the child's incapacity, both natural and legal, and its consequent need of protection and care. At common law, this duty of child support was visited almost exclusively upon the father and was limited to that period when the child remained unemancipated. Today, the obligation of child support is recognized by statute to be upon both the mother and father jointly as the natural guardians of their natural and adopted children.

See § 744.301, Fla.Stat. (1977).

Support as contemplated by the foregoing statutory authority and case law is defined as the provision of necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical treatment. See State v. Winters, 346 So.2d 991 (Fla. 1977) receded from, on other grounds, in State v. Joyce, 361 So.2d 406 (Fla. 1978); §§ 827.04-.05, Fla.Stat. (1977). Thus, either or both of the parents of a minor child have a duty to provide reasonable and necessary medical attention for that child.

In the case under consideration, the mother received a "legal" benefit when the hospital rendered its services to her child. Her duty to provide or procure necessary medical services for her daughter was fulfilled. 3 She would be unjustly enriched if allowed to enjoy that benefit without compensating the hospital.

We turn next to the question of whether...

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32 cases
  • Commerce Partnership 8098 Ltd. Partnership v. Equity Contracting Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • March 26, 1997
    ...circumstances that made it unjust to retain it without giving compensation. Tipper, 281 So.2d at 13; Variety Children's Hosp. v. Vigliotti, 385 So.2d 1052, 1053 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980). The elements of a cause of action for a quasi contract are that: (1) the plaintiff has conferred a benefit on ......
  • In re Processed Egg Prods. Antitrust Litig.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • March 20, 2012
    ...interactions between the plaintiff and defendant in order for a benefit to have been conferred. See Variety Children's Hosp. v. Vigliotti, 385 So.2d 1052, 1053–54 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1980) (holding that a mother was unjustly enriched when a “the hospital rendered its services to her child” bec......
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • July 10, 2003
    ...497 So.2d 1282, 1284 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986); see also State v. Winters, 346 So.2d 991, 993 (Fla.1977); Variety Children's Hosp., Inc. v. Vigliotti, 385 So.2d 1052, 1054 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980). Indeed, failure to provide one's child with adequate medical care certainly constitutes child abuse. See ......
  • In re Processed Egg Prods. Antitrust Litig., MDL No. 2002
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • March 19, 2012 interactions between the plaintiff and defendant in order for a benefit to have been conferred. See Variety Children'sHosp., 385 So. 2d 1052,1053-54 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1980) (holding that a mother was unjustly enriched when a "the hospital rendered its services to her child" becaus......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Contract cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Florida Causes of Action
    • April 1, 2022
    ...on grounds of justice and equity and do not rest upon assent of contracting parties). 5. Variety Children’s Hospital, Inc. v. Vigliotti , 385 So.2d 1052, 1053 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980). §3:20.1.4 Elements of Cause of Action — 4th DCA A contract implied in fact is one form of an enforceable contrac......

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