The Marvin Claim

Marvin v. Marvin (18 Cal. 3d 660 (1976)) is a landmark "palimony" case which held that a contract between unmarried partners was enforceable unless it was based on an illicit or unlawful consideration. The contract may be express or implied. An express contract is a contract in which all the important terms of the contract are specifically stated whether orally or in writing, whereas, an implied contract is one in which the existence of the contract is assumed by the nature of the conduct or behavior of the parties.

In 1971, Lee Marvin (defendant and respondent), an American film actor who was best known for his role as Detective Lieutenant Frank Ballinger in the NBC hit show, M Squad, was sued for palimony by his live-in girlfriend, Michelle Triola (Michelle legally changed her name to Marvin). Lee and Michelle lived together from 1964 to 1970. Lee was still married to Betty Marvin at the time he and Michelle started living together.

In her lawsuit, Michelle claimed that they "entered into an oral agreement" that while "the parties lived together they would combine their efforts and earnings and would share equally any and all property accumulated as a result of their efforts whether individually or combined." Additionally, they agreed to "hold themselves out to the general public as husband and wife" and that "Michelle would further render her services as a companion, homemaker, housekeeper and cook to Lee."

Michelle further claims that she gave up a profitable career as an entertainer and singer to devote her time to Lee. Lee in return agreed to provide Michelle financial support for the rest of her life. However, in 1970, Lee asked Michelle to leave his household. He continued to support her for over a year, at which point, he refused to provide additional support. As a result, Michelle sought an action for declaratory relief and imposition of a constructive trust upon one half of the property acquired during the course of their relationship.

After extensive hearing, the trail court ruled in favor of Lee Marvin. Michelle appealed.

Tune in for more on this topic on subsequent blog.

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*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be construed as professional legal advice.

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