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Dr. Sidney Greenspan or Sylvester S. Garfield v. Slate

Decided: October 28, 1952.

DR. SIDNEY GREENSPAN OR SYLVESTER S. GARFIELD IN THE ALTERNATIVE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THOMAS SLATE AND NELDA SLATE, HIS WIFE, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Jayne, Proctor and Schettino. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jayne, S.j.a.d.

Jayne

There nestles in the substance of this case the question whether the law of this State generates an obligation of a parent to pay the reasonable fee of a physician who, without any express authority of the parent, renders necessary professional services to the parent's infant child.

Here is an epitome of the factual story. Mr. Sylvester S. Garfield, a member of the bar, was the Good Samaritan. Barbara Slate, the 17-year-old daughter of the defendants, was the afflicted. Mrs. Lenore Badgett was then employed as a housekeeper at Mr. Garfield's residence at Belmar and her son, who was courting Barbara, was frequently accompanied by Barbara on his visits to meet his mother at the Garfield home.

On one such occasion in the month of January 1952 Mr. Garfield fortuitously observed that Barbara was scarcely able to walk, and he discovered that her foot and ankle were exceedingly swollen and conspicuously discolored. He elicited from her the information that she had sustained the injury two or three days previously while playing basketball at the high school and that her parents deemed the painful injury to be nothing more than a sprain, hence they declined to provide her any medical aid.

Mr. Garfield in the exercise of good judgment promptly dispatched Mrs. Badgett, her son, and Barbara to the nearby office of Dr. Greenspan, who by means of X-rays discovered that a bone of the foot had been fractured. A cast was applied. Barbara was thereafter obliged to use crutches until the removal of the cast by Dr. Greenspan on February 11, 1952. Barbara resided with her parents and the presence of the cast and the use of crutches must have been apparent to them.

Upon the completion of his services Dr. Greenspan rendered a bill to the parents in the sum of $45 which they have refused to pay.

At the trial of this action to recover from the defendants the reasonable value of the professional services so performed, Dr. Greenspan testified that had not proper medical care and attention been devoted to the injury at the time, permanent injury would have resulted. He verified the reasonableness of a charge of at least $35. He frankly acknowledged that he had not been consulted or employed by the defendants.

The record reveals the following statement of the outcome of the action:

"Defendants moved for a judgment in their behalf on the ground that they did not authorize such services to be rendered to Barbara. The Court granted the motion and entered judgment in favor of the defendants." (Emphasis supplied.)

"Authorization not having been established by the plaintiffs, judgment in favor of the defendants was in order and accordingly granted on motion."

Medical care, once commonly termed "physic" was considered to be within the category of necessities as long ago as Lord Coke's time. Early decisions too numerous specifically to cite have uniformly held that necessaries for an infant include "necessary meat, drink, apparel and physic." Chancellor Kent was heard to say, "The wants and weaknesses of children render it necessary that some person maintains them, and ...


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