Enforcing Promises – Chapter 2 – Promissory Estoppel - 7/10/2009 Wright v. Newman Georgia Supreme Court, 1996 266 Ga. 519 Facts: Evidentiary Facts Wright is not the biological father of Newman’s son. However, the son was given his surname and Wright’s name is on the birth certificate. The child is now 10 y/o and the mother brings suit for child support. – The dissent notes that the mother severed ties with Wright 7 years ago, only in the last 2 years allowing visitation. Procedural Facts The trial court finds Wright financially responsible for the child because of his “actions in having himself listed on the child’ birth certificate, giving the child his surname and establishing a parent-child relationship. Issue: Under state contract law, is a “father figure” financially responsible for implying his fatherhood after things don’t work out? Holding: Yes. Reasoning: There was an implied promise made when the child was born, between the surname and the signing of the birth certificate. The mother made a reliance, to her detriment, that Wright would be there to support her. In light of this promise, she did not seek the biological father for support, both financially and emotionally. Wright knew he was not the natural father and voluntarily bound himself. The duty to support which Wright assumed 10-years ago remains enforceable under the contractual doctrine of promissory estoppel. Concurring: There is a moral obligation to support this child. (not really a legal obligation) Promissory Estoppel is not an alternative way of enforcing a promise; it is a substitute to consideration. (For clarity purposes, think of P.E. as an alternative.) Diss’t: Although I agree that child support may be ordered under promissory estoppel, a person asserting this must show that she relied on the promise to her detriment. The record is completely “bereft(?)” of any evidence of meeting this burden. The majority also fails to show why she cannot find the natural father, and why she never tried to. Newman has not shown that she is now unable to do what she would have had to do 10-years ago. Further, any mention of the passage of 10-years is invalid because, at least for the last 7years, Newman has been in the same situation, without receiving support payments from Wright. Only in the past 2-years has Wright even been in contact with the child. If there is any sort of obligation here, it is the moral obligation of staying with a child. Judgment: Affirmed.
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