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Sparks v. Gustafson

Alaska Supreme Court
750 P.2d 338 (1988)


Gustafson (plaintiff) was a close personal friend and business associate of Robert Sparks, Sr. (decedent). In 1980, Sparks, Sr. purchase a building. Gustafson managed the building without charge for Sparks, Sr. until Sparks, Sr. died on March 1, 1981. Gustafson continued to perform extensive management and maintenance work on the building without charge. Gustafson did so with the full knowledge and approval of Robert Sparks, Jr. (defendant), executor of Sparks, Sr.’s estate (Estate) (defendant). In February 1982, the Estate signed a document titled “purchase agreement” that indicated that Gustafson had purchased the building from the Estate. The purchase agreement stated that Gustafson would receive the deed to the building as soon as details of the purchase were worked out. The Estate sold the building to a third party, however, in February 1983. Gustafson ceased managing the building at this time. In July 1983, Gustafson brought suit in Alaska state court against the Estate and Robert Sparks, Jr. on the ground that the Estate and Sparks, Jr. breached an oral agreement to sell the building to Gustafson. Additionally, Gustafson claimed that he was entitled to the value of the services he performed in managing and maintaining the building based on a theory of unjust enrichment. The trial court held that it would be inequitable to allow the Estate to retain the benefits Gustafson had incurred upon the building at his own expense. The trial court ordered the Estate to pay Gustafson $65,706.07, and Sparks, Jr. appealed.

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