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In re Estate of Roccamonte

Supreme Court of New Jersey
808 A.2d 838 (2002)


Facts

Mary Sopko (plaintiff) commenced a romantic affair with Arthur Roccamonte in the 1950s. At the time, both Sopko and Roccamonte were married to other people. Sopko ended the affair when Roccamonte refused to leave his wife. However, Roccamonte induced Sopko to return to him and divorce her husband. Roccamonte told Sopko his business made divorcing his wife impossible because of the social stigma, but he wanted to live with Sopko and would financially support her. Sopko lived with Roccamonte and her daughter until Roccamonte’s death in the 1990s. During that time, Sopko and Roccamonte lived as husband and wife. Roccamonte gave Sopko title to an apartment, took vacations with her, and financially supported her daughter. Roccamonte also repeatedly assured Sopko he would see that she was provided for after his death. However, Roccamonte died intestate. Sopko sued for a lump-sum award. The trial judge dismissed the complaint. Sopko appealed to the appellate division and was successful. Roccamonte’s estate (the Estate) appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey. The Estate argued that, unlike in a previous case of an award to an unmarried cohabitant, Sopko had not been required to provide domestic work to Roccamonte. Accordingly, the Estate argued, sexual work was the sole consideration for Roccamonte’s promise to financially support Sopko, which rendered the contract between Roccamonte and Sopko unenforceable as meretricious.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Pressler, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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