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Man's companion entitled to compensation for services, COA rules

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An Indiana probate court correctly allowed a woman’s partial claim for compensation for 14 years of household and medical services to a man she considered a “loving companion,” the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday, finding the woman had rebutted the presumption her services were gratuitous.

After George Henry’s wife, Phyllis, developed cystic fibrosis, he hired Nadene Woods to work as his wife’s assistant for four days a week at a rate of $150 per week. When Phyllis Henry died in February 1998, Woods began taking on household duties for the widower.

Then, when Henry suffered a heart attack, Woods moved into the house while also maintaining a separate residence. Woods continued to care for Henry after his second heart attack in 2010 and until his death in 2012.

After Henry died, Woods filed a claim against his estate, seeking compensation in the amount of $381,355 for her 14 years of service. The claim was substantially disallowed by the estate executor, but at an ensuing bench trial the Marion Superior Court partially allowed Woods’ claim and awarded her $125,400.

On appeal, Henry’s estate argued Woods was required to rebut a presumption that her services were gratuitous and that she was unable to meet that requirement. But Indiana Court of Appeals Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote in a Friday opinion the trial court made no specific finding or conclusion as to whether Woods rebutted such a presumption.

However, Bailey further wrote there was no evidence of a biological, marital or adoptive relationship between Henry and Woods. Thus, “the probate court’s omission of a finding or conclusion relative to whether Woods rebutted a presumption of gratuitousness is not error.”

Henry’s estate further challenged the trial court’s finding of fact that Henry had told some of his friends he didn’t need to marry Woods and that when he died she would be well taken care of. The estate claimed such a statement could have been used “to support a finding that George Henry had agreed in the future to compensate Nadene for her services,” but Bailey wrote such an argument does not provide grounds for reversal.

Finally, Henry’s estate argued Woods was unable to prove the existence of an implied contract for payment of her services in the absence of an express contract, so her claim must fail due to a lack of evidence. But the appellate panel also rejected that argument, finding the evidence of Woods’ years of service to Henry would allow her to succeed on both implied contract and unjust enrichment claims.

“(Henry’s children) made no arrangements for alternate care and thus incurred no expense depleting potential estate assets,” Bailey wrote. “It would be unjust to permit the Estate to retain all the assets preserved without making payment to Woods.”

Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik concurred in result, writing in a separate opinion “the rebuttable presumption that services are gratuitous should apply to this case because although Woods and Henry were not married, they lived together as a couple and operated as a family for fourteen years.”

But Vaidik also wrote she agreed Woods had rebutted the presumption by proving an implied contract. Thus, because the majority found an implied contract worth $125,400, Vaidik concurred in result.

The case is The Estate of George A. Henry, Deceased v. Nadene Woods, 49A05-1604-PL-810.
 

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  1. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  2. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  3. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  4. Different rules for different folks....

  5. I would strongly suggest anyone seeking mediation check the experience of the mediator. There are retired judges who decide to become mediators. Their training and experience is in making rulings which is not the point of mediation.

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