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Gregory v. Bowlsby
Iowa Supreme Court
88 N.W. 822 (1902)
Catherine Bowlsby died intestate, leaving a husband, Benjamin Bowlsby (defendant), and children (plaintiffs) as her heirs. Each heir inherited an interest in Catherine’s farmland. Benjamin asked his children to sign over their interests in the farmland to him for $1 each, claiming that this would allow Benjamin to use the land more effectively for everyone’s benefit. In exchange, Benjamin orally promised his children that (1) he would hold the land for his entire life and (2) the land and all the profits from it would go to the children at Benjamin’s death. Benjamin had an attorney help him with the transaction, but none of the children consulted an attorney before signing over their interests in the land. Benjamin then remarried and gave one-third of the land to his new wife. The children sued Benjamin to return their interests in the farmland, claiming that Benjamin had never intended to follow through on his promises and that he had made the promises solely to defraud the children into giving up their interests in the land. Benjamin demurred to the complaint, i.e., moved to dismiss the lawsuit. The trial court ruled that any alleged oral promises were not enforceable under the statute of frauds and, therefore, that the children had no possible claim for relief. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, and the children appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Deemer, J.)
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