Gratuitous Services & Family Relationship Defense

A “family relationship” is an affirmative defense to certain claims. It is rare. It can arise as a defense to claims of unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, or adverse possession. The defense is that services were rendered out of love and affection and that one was not necessarily trying to seek money.

“The existence of a family relationship, once it is established, gives rise to a presumption that services rendered were intended to be gratuitous.” McMurry v. Magnusson, 849 S.W.2d 619, 622 (Mo. Ct. App. 1993). To succeed on the defense, one must show: (1) a social status, (2) that there is a head of household who has a right to direct and control those gathered in the house hold, (3) that the head of household must be either legally or morally obligated to support the other member(s), and (4) there must be a corresponding state of at least partial dependence of the other members for this support. Embry v. Martz’Estate, 377 S.W.2d 367, 370 (Mo. 1964); Schanz v. Estate of Terry, 504 S.W.2d 653, 656 (Mo. Ct. App. 1974).

Scroll to Top