Saturday, December 20, 2008
The Dirty Double: Despite Having Passed Away, Lee Marvin Becomes Embroiled In Second Oral Agreement Dispute
Back in the 1970s, actor Lee Marvin was involved in one of the most famous cases ever dealing with an alleged oral agreement. And now, even though he has passed away, he has become posthumously embroiled in another such dispute.
Marvin v. Marvin, 557 P.2d 106 (Cal. 1976), is often described as "[t]he landmark decision involving unmarried cohabitants." Michelle Oberman, Sex, Lies, and the Duty to Disclose, 47 Ariz. L. Rev. 871, 894 (2005). That case dealt:
"with the affairs of Michelle and Lee Marvin, who lived together for seven years. During that time, Lee Marvin acquired considerable property in his own name. Upon the demise of the relationship, Lee evicted Michelle from the couple's joint home and denied any obligation to support her. According to Michelle, the couple had an oral understanding whereby she would serve as 'companion, homemaker, housekeeper and cook' to the defendant, and they would act as husband and wife. In exchange, they would 'share equally' in the property they accumulated, and he would support her for the rest of her life. The court accepted her testimony and upheld the legal enforcement of express contracts between unmarried cohabitants. Furthermore, the court suggested that, in future cases involving unmarried cohabitants who lacked express agreements, courts should look to the conduct of parties to determine whether there was an implied agreement to share resources. Finally, it held that courts may also award damages in these cases under the doctrine of quantum meruit." Id.
Lee Marvin has since passed away, but, in an example of deja vu all over again, the actor has once again become embroiled in a dispute involving an attempted eviction and an alleged oral agreement. This time, Marvin's widow, Pamela, wants to evict her daughter
widow and son-in-law, Wendy and Fred King, from the home that they have occupied for 25 years.
According to Pamela, the house should be sold, with the proceeds divided according to longstanding arrangements: 81% to a survivors trust that she manages and the remaining 19% to Wendy. Meanwhile, the Kings' attorney, Brick P. Storts III, has countered that Lee Marvin intended the property as part of Wendy King's inheritance and that Pamela Marvin is trying to punish her daughter. Finally, Pamela's attorneys have responded that "Wendy King's claim that Lee Marvin promised her the house as an inheritance wasn't admissible in court under Arizona's so-called 'Dead Man's Statute.'"
And, unless there are some facts of which I am unaware, I would have to agree with Pamela's attorneys. A.R.S. Section 12-2251, Arizona's "Dead Man's Statute," states that:
"In an action by or against personal representatives, administrators, guardians or conservators in which judgment may be given for or against them as such, neither party shall be allowed to testify against the other as to any transaction with or statement by the testator, intestate or ward unless called to testify thereto by the opposite party, or required to testify thereto by the court. The provisions of this section shall extend to and include all actions by or against the heirs, devisees, legatees or legal representatives of a decedent arising out of any transaction with the decedent."
This is exactly what Wendy is trying to do: testify regarding a "transaction with or statement by the testator." Thus, her proposed testimony regarding the house should be barred by Arizona's Dead Man's Statute.