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Bernkrant v. Fowler

Supreme Court of California
360 P.2d 906 (1961)


Facts

Nevada residents Louis, Florence, and Alfred Bernkrant (plaintiffs) owed John Granrud $24,000 on the purchase of a Nevada apartment building. In Las Vegas in 1954, Granrud orally offered to forgive the Bernkrants’ debt in his will if they made a partial payment and refinanced. The Bernkrants agreed. They made a payment, the debt was reduced through refinancing, and Granrud used the proceeds to buy a trailer park in Las Vegas. Less than two years later, Granrud died while living in California. There was no evidence of his domicile at the time of the oral agreement with the Bernkrants. His will made no provision for the forgiveness of plaintiffs’ debt. The Bernkrants filed an action in California state court against Granrud’s executrix, Dorothy Fowler (defendant), seeking to compel cancellation of the debt and reconveyance of the Nevada property by which the debt was secured. The trial court ruled in favor of Fowler on the grounds that the statute of frauds barred the Bernkrants’ suit under both Nevada and California law. The intermediate appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision with respect to California law. The Bernkrants appealed, arguing that Nevada law should apply and that Granrud’s promise was enforceable thereunder.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Traynor, J.)

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