Mrs. Neeland purchased two diamond watches, a diamond cocktail ring, a pearl necklace, pearl earrings, and a lighter. The value of the merchandise exceeded $6,000. Payments made by the wife reduced the balance due on her account to $2,608.94. No further payments were made.
The seller of the jewelry brought suit against both the husband and wife for $2,500. This is the maximum recoverable in a small claims action.
The husband filed a motion to dismiss. He alleged that he didn’t make the purchases. He said that he did not possess any of the merchandise. He did not sign the purchase agreement upon which the claim was based.
The trial court granted the husband’s motion. It found that the couple were a family in fact. But, the purchase of jewelry, precious gems and precious metals, did not fall within the scope of the Family Expense Act. The seller appealed.
The Appellate Court held that the matter could not be decided without a complete review of the facts. This cannot be done in a Motion to Dismiss. Was a substantial benefit conferred on the family by these purchases? If so, the court could impose a joint and several liability on both husband and wife for the purchase price. This is regardless of whether the expenditure was reasonable and necessary.
There may be some expenses which are of no benefit to the family. But, we conclude that the jewelry purchased here does not fall into that category.
For most families the purchase of over $6,000 worth of jewelry would represent an extraordinary expense. Our statute, however, does not limit the liability of parties to purchases that are reasonable and necessary. Rather, the ultimate issue focuses upon who benefited from the expenditure.
The trial court record provides no information as to how, by whom, or for what purpose the jewelry was to be used. The seller’s theory is that the wife’s purchases benefitted the family. Because of the investment potential of the jewelry. Again, that is a question of fact that needs to be analyzed.
White v. Neeland and Neeland, 114 Ill.App.3d 174 (1983).
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