Wilson v. Bogert

Decision Date08 December 1959
Docket NumberNo. 8805,8805
Citation81 Idaho 535,347 P.2d 341
PartiesCecella WILSON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Edward A. BOGERT and Ruth Bogert, husband and wife, Defendants-Respondents.
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

Ben W. Davis, George R. Phillips, Pocatello, for appellant.

Merrill & Merrill, Pocatello, for respondent.

TAYLOR, Justice.

Plaintiff's (appellant's) original complaint sought damages for personal injury, resulting from a fall in the home of defendants (respondents), on the ground of negligence. The record does not show a ruling by the trial court on defendants' demurrer thereto.

Pursuant to leave granted, plaintiff filed an amended complaint containing two counts. Plaintiff on her first count seeks recovery on the theory of contract based upon an alleged agreement between plaintiff and defendants, by the terms of which the tort claim was compromised and settled; by the second count plaintiff seeks recovery on the basis of the original alleged tort.

In substance, plaintiff alleges in count one that defendants are husband and wife; that Ruth Bogert, one of the defendants, and the plaintiff entered into an oral agreement for a joint enterprise or common undertaking to be carried out by the plaintiff and said defendant, namely, the giving of a bridal shower for a mutual friend; that each of the parties would bear proportionately all expenses involved, including the furnishing of prizes and refreshments; that each would have equal control over the other in planning and carrying out the project, which was of mutual benefit to each; that plaintiff did share her proportion of all expenses; that it was agreed that the shower should be held in the home of the defendants and that the entire home would be used therefor; that the joint enterprise was a community enterprise between Ruth Bogert and the defendant Edward A. Bogert; that on January 19, 1957, plaintiff went to the home of the defendants and there participated with the defendants in carrying out the venture and in the joint control thereof; that in defendants' home a stairway led from a hall off the living room to a room below, in which, at the time, the defendant Edward A. Bogert was viewing television, and which room was unlighted except by the light from the television set; that about 2:30 p. m., at the direction of Ruth Bogert, plaintiff proceeded to carry a dish of ice cream and a cup of coffee to defendant Edward A. Bogert; that there was at the bottom of the stairs a door, flush with the top of the second step above the floor of the lower room, which was shut; that plaintiff opened this door and, thinking she had reached the floor level, stepped forward and fell, from which fall she was injured; that plaintiff was unfamiliar with the stairway; that defendants knew, or by the use of reasonable diligence were bound to know, that the condition of the stairway was dangerous and hazardous and involved an unreasonable risk to those not familiar therewith; and that they negligently and carelessly allowed the same to remain in such dangerous condition and gave plaintiff no warning thereof.

After alleging the nature and extent of her injuries and the medical and hospital expenses incurred therefor, plaintiff further alleges that one, S. S. Smith, as the agent and representative of the defendants, visited plaintiff at the hospital and, without her request, had a television set and a private telephone installed in her room, advising her that such would be without charge to her; that without her request Smith had her moved from a two bed ward to a single bed room and advised her not to worry about the additional expense, since it would be taken care of; that after she was discharged from the hospital, at Smith's urging she employed a Mrs. Schoonover to assist her and to care for her in her home at the expense of $442; that she would not have employed Mrs. Schoonover nor incurred the expenses for the television, telephone and private room, except for the promise of Smith that same would be paid by defendants; that while she was in the hospital Smith inquired of her whether she intended to sue the defendants, and on behalf of defendants proposed to her that if she would not file suit against them, defendants would pay all of her expenses of every kind and nature incurred by reason of her injury, and would make a reasonable settlement with her for her injury, when she was released by her doctor; that plaintiff assented to this proposal and directed that all of her hospital and physician's records be shown and given to Smith, which she would not have done except for the agreement alleged; that plaintiff was released and discharged by her doctor on or about June 1, 1957; that plaintiff presented the bills for all of the expenses incurred to defendants and asked for payment thereof and for a settlement in accordance with the agreement; that on or about August 20, 1957, the defendants, through their agent, Smith, informed plaintiff that they denied all liability and would not pay her bills nor make any settlement with her; that plaintiff entered into the agreement in good faith, believing that she had a just and valid claim against defendants for damages for her injuries.

Plaintiff alleges special damages in the sum of $1,899.04, and general damages in the sum of $25,000.

In her second count, plaintiff incorporates all of the allegations of the first count, except those relating to the compromise agreement, and alleges that her damages were the proximate result of the negligence of the defendants, and prays judgment therefor on that ground.

The court treated defendants' general demurrer as a motion to dismiss under rule 12(b)(6) of the rules of civil procedure: 'failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted'.

The court held that the first count failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted on two grounds; first, that the oral agreement alleged is so 'indefinite and uncertain as to terms, conditions, time and amounts, as to be unenforceable'; second, that the consideration for the agreement being plaintiff's promise not to file suit for damages, the agreement was breached by the plaintiff by filing this action.

The court held that count two fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted on the ground that it affirmatively appears from the allegations thereof that the plaintiff, at the time of her injury, was upon the premises of the defendants 'as a social guest and licensee, and not as a business visitor, or invitee, engaged in a joint venture or enterprise for profit or gain'; and that the allegations tested by the rule applicable to the status of a licensee are insufficient to impose a liability upon the defendants.

Judgment of dismissal was thereafter entered, from which this appeal is prosecuted.

Where the parties to a legal controversy, in good faith enter into a contract compromising and settling their adverse claims, such agreement is binding upon the parties, and, in the absence of fraud, duress or undue influence, is enforceable either at law or in equity according to the nature of the case. Ticknor v. McGinnis, 33 Idaho 308, 193 P. 850; Nelson v. Krigbaum, 38 Idaho 716, 226 P. 169; Moran v. Copeman, 55 Idaho 785, 47 P.2d 920; Stub v. Belmont, 20 Cal.2d 208, 124 P.2d 826; 11 Am.Jur., Compromise and Settlement, § 35, p. 283. Such a contract stands on the same footing as any other contract and is governed by the same rules and principles as are applicable to contracts generally. 11 Am.Jur., Compromise and Settlement, § 35, p. 283. An agreement of compromise and settlement is a merger and bar of all pre-existing claims which the parties intended to settle thereby. Moran v. Copeman, supra; Shriver v. Kuchel, 113 Cal.App.2d 421, 248 P.2d 35; 15 C.J.S. Compromise and Settlement § 24, p. 739. Such prior claims are thereby superseded and extinguished. The compromise agreement becomes the sole source and measure of the rights of the parties involved in the previously existing controversy. The existence of a valid agreement of compromise and settlement is a complete defense to an action based upon the original claim. Bruce v. Oberbillig, 46 Idaho 387, 268 P. 35; Shriver v. Kuchel, supra; Argonaut Ins. Exch. v. Industrial Acc. Commission, 49 Cal.2d 706, 321 P.2d 460; 11 Am.Jur., Compromise and Settlement, § 36, p. 284.

In an action brought to enforce an agreement of compromise and settlement, made in good faith, the court will not inquire into the merits or validity of the original claim. Heath v. Potlatch Lumber Co., 18 Idaho 42, 108 P. 343, 27 L.R.A.,N.S., 707; Nelson v. Krigbaum, supra.

In Heath v. Potlatch Lumber Co., supra, this court quoted a syllabus from Vane v. Towle, 5 Idaho 471, 50 P. 1004, as follows:

"While the compromise of a claim asserted upon the one side, but questioned upon the other, will be deemed a sufficient consideration to support an agreement to pay such claim, it is still essential that the claim so asserted should have some basis upon principles of law or equity." 18 Idaho at page 49, 108 P. at page 345.

and from Smith v. Farra, 21 Or. 395, 28 P. 241, 20 L.R.A. 115, as follows:

"It is not every disputed claim, however, which will support a compromise, but it must be a claim honestly and in good faith asserted, concerning which the parties may bona fide and upon reasonable grounds disagree." 18 Idaho at page 49, 108 P. at page 345.

The applicable general principle is stated in the Heath case as follows:

'Whether the plaintiff in fact could have maintained such action is not the test in determining whether there was a consideration for the compromise agreement. If the plaintiff made his claim in good faith and the defendant company denied its liability, and to avoid a lawsuit agreed to pay the plaintiff his wages as a consideration for the plaintiff's not bringing such suit, then there was sufficient consideration to support such compromise agreement. In such cases it is sufficient if the...

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53 cases
  • Lawrence v. Hutchinson
    • United States
    • Idaho Court of Appeals
    • February 5, 2009
    ...influence, is enforceable either at law or in equity. Young Electric Sign Co., 135 Idaho at 808, 25 P.3d at 121; Wilson v. Bogert, 81 Idaho 535, 542, 347 P.2d 341, 345 (1959). Oral settlement agreements must comply with the requirements for contracts. McColm-Traska, 139 Idaho at 951, 88 P.3......
  • Speece v. Browne
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • September 2, 1964
    ...and the services rendered the host were of a minor nature and incidental to the social purpose of the visit. The cases of Wilson v. Bogert, 81 Idaho 535, 347 P.2d 341; Porter v. Ferguson, 53 Wash.2d 629, 336 P.2d 133; and Lucas v. Barner, 56 Wash. 136, 351 P.2d 492, are not in point because......
  • Clawson v. General Ins. Co. of America
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • March 28, 1966
    ...those cases the issue was whether the relationship between the respective parties constituted that of a joint venture. In Wilson v. Bogert, 81 Idaho 535, 347 P.2d 341, this court differentiated between a 'joint venture' and a 'joint enterprise', on the basis that a joint venture is motivate......
  • Keller v. Holiday Inns, Inc.
    • United States
    • Idaho Court of Appeals
    • November 4, 1983
    ...an unsafe condition or activity on the property is insufficient, by itself, to impose liability to a licensee. Wilson v. Bogert, 81 Idaho 535, 347 P.2d 341 (1959). However, the law has adopted a more protective view toward an invitee. An invitee is a person who enters upon the land for a pu......
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