Yale Diagnostic Radiology v. Estate of Fountain

CASE BRIEF 12.1

Yale Diagnostic Radiology v. Estate of Fountain

838 A.2d 179 (Conn. 2003)

FACTS: In March, 1996, Harun Fountain was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range bya playmate. As a result of his injuries, including the loss of his right eye, Fountain required extensive lifesaving medical services from a variety of medical services providers, including Yale

Diagnostic Radiology (plaintiff). The expenses at Yale totaled $17,694. Yale billed Vernetta

Turner-Tucker (Tucker), Fountain’s mother, but the bill went unpaid and, in 1999, Yale obtained

a judgment against her. In January, 2001, all of Tucker’s debts were discharged in bankruptcy,

including the Yale judgment.

Tucker filed suit against the boy who had shot Fountain. However, Fountain succumbed to his

injuries, passing away before the case was settled. The settlement on the tort case was placed into

probate court as part of Fountain’s estate. Tucker was the administrator of Fountain’s estate.

When the settlement was deposited, Yale asked the probate court for payment of its $17,694

judgment from the estate.

DECISION BELOW: The Probate Court denied the motion. Yale appealed to the trial court, and

the trial court held for Yale. Tucker and the estate (defendants) appealed.

ISSUE ON APPEAL: Can minors be held liable for necessaries when their parents cannot or refuse

to pay?

DECISION: . . . we conclude that Connecticut recognizes the doctrine of necessaries. We further

conclude that, pursuant to the doctrine, the defendants are liable for payment to the plaintiff for

the services rendered to Fountain.

When a medical service provider renders necessary medical care to an injured minor, two contracts

arise: the primary contract between the provider and the minor’s parents; and an implied in law

contract between the provider and the minor himself. The primary contract between the provider

and the parents is based on the parents’ duty to pay for their children’s necessary expenses, under

both common law and statute. Such contracts, where not express, may be implied in fact and

generally arise both from the parties’ conduct and their reasonable expectations. The primacy of

this contract means that the provider of necessaries must make all reasonable efforts to collect

from the parents before resorting to the secondary, implied in law contract with the minor.

The present case illustrates the inequity that would arise if no implied in law contract arose between

Fountain and plaintiff. Fountain received, through a settlement with the boy who caused his

injuries, funds that were calculated, at least in part, on the costs of the medical services provided

to him by the plaintiff in the wake of those injuries. This fact further supports a determination of

an implied in law contract under the circumstances of the case.

Tucker had four years to pay the plaintiff’s bill for the services rendered to Fountain. She did not

pay that bill even when the plaintiff pursued a collection action against her. These facts are

sufficient to show that Tucker was unwilling or unable to pay for Fountain’s necessary medical

services.

Affirmed.

Questions

1. Describe the series of events that led to Yale requesting that the minor pay for the medical

services.

2. What public policy issues and concerns result from this decision?

3. What benefits does the decision provide?

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