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Conrad v. Fields

Minnesota Court of Appeals
WL 2106302 (2007)


Facts

Marjorie Conrad (plaintiff) met Walter Fields (defendant) when they were living in the same apartment complex. Fields became a wealthy and charitable businessman who paid for the education expenses of others on occasion and also helped Conrad financially from time to time. In 2000, Fields proposed that Conrad attend law school at his expense. Conrad made $45,000 a year working for Quest but still owed $5,000 on undergraduate loans and was not comfortable taking on additional debt. Fields said he would pay her tuition and expenses as they came due. Conrad quit her job and enrolled in law school in 2001. Fields made two tuition payments in the fall of 2001 but stopped payment on the second. Fields told Conrad that his assets were frozen on account of an Internal Revenue Service audit and that his payments on her behalf would therefore be delayed. In 2004, Conrad and Fields traded messages about her debt. Fields wrote that he would pay her tuition when she finished school and passed the bar exam. He later informed her that he would not cover her expenses. Conrad sued Fields, alleging negligence and breach of contract. She also averred that she had enrolled in law school in reliance on Fields’ promises. After a nonjury trial, the court awarded Conrad $87,314.63, which was the cost of her tuition and books, on the basis of promissory estoppel. Fields appealed, arguing that Conrad neither pleaded nor proved promissory estoppel.

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Holding and Reasoning (Peterson, J.)

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