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Sheldon v. Blackman

Wisconsin Supreme Court
205 N.W. 486 (1925)


In 1889, Julia Sheldon (plaintiff) went to live with her uncle and aunt, Henry Wilkinson and his wife, in order to care for them in their old age. She did so at Wilkinson’s request and the understanding that she would receive his property after he and his wife died. Until their deaths 34 years later, Sheldon provided them substantial physical and domestic service. In 1919, Wilkinson made out a promissory note to Sheldon in which he promised to pay her $30,000 at the time of his death, for the services she had provided him and his wife up to the date of the note. He further promised to pay her the reasonable value of services she performed after the date of the note. At the time of the note, Wilkinson also willed to Sheldon the residue of his property, but the will was lost or destroyed. After Wilkinson’s death, Sheldon filed a claim in probate court against his estate (defendant) for the funds promised in the note and, alternatively, the value of services she provided. The court ruled that the note was enforceable. It allowed Sheldon’s claim of $30,000 plus approximately $6,000 for services provided between the date of the note and Wilkinson’s death. The estate conceded that Sheldon had a claim in quantum meruit but disputed the amount of the award. The estate argued, on appeal, that the note lacked consideration and that the relationship between Sheldon and Wilkinson required an express contract subject to a six-year statute of limitations.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Jones, J.)

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