This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re: Estate of Kenneth L. Smart, Deceased,
Barbara Wolf, Claimant,
Kathy Smart, Personal Representative,
William G. Smart, Objecting Heir,
Filed September 17, 1996
Reversed and remanded
Polk County District Court
File No. P2-94-750
Donald H. Leonard, Massee & Leonard, Ltd., 308 DeMers Avenue, East Grand Forks, MN 56721 (for Appellant)
Michael F. Daley, Fisher, Olson, Daley & Bata, Ltd., 315 First Avenue North, Grand Forks, ND 58201 (for Respondent Kathy Smart)
Kenneth F. Johannson, Johannson, Taylor, Rust, Tye & Fagerlund, P.A., 407 North Broadway, Crookston, MN 56716 (for Respondent William Smart)
Considered and decided by Parker, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Schultz, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Barbara Wolf challenges the district court's finding that the reasonable value of her services was $1.28 per hour. Based on the record, the district court's finding is clearly erroneous. We reverse and order judgment for $10 per hour to Wolf for her services, the amount customarily paid in that area by the hospital for homemaker/chore services. In addition, we remand to the district court to consider the issue of reasonable costs and disbursements..
Appellant Barbara Wolf is a niece of the decedent Kenneth Smart. At the time of the hearing, Wolf had been a registered nurse for twelve years, and she had been a licensed practical nurse for five years prior to that.
In December 1992, Wolf began to provide personal services to the decedent. Initially, she did not expect to be paid for her services. In June 1993, the decedent began to require Wolf's assistance on a regular basis. Wolf prepared the decedent's meals, cleaned his house, ordered and prepared his medications, irrigated his nose so that he could breathe properly, and performed several other services ranging from domestic house chores to those normally performed by LPNs and RNs. Wolf stayed overnight at the decedent's house on occasion.
In June 1993, Wolf and the decedent agreed that Wolf would be compensated for her services. Wolf and the decedent went over a schedule of United Hospital's charges for home care services. Wolf testified that the decedent, at one point, said that she should receive the same amount of money it would cost him to live in a nursing home. At another point, in a note dated April 26, 1994, the decedent stated:
Respondent Kathy Smart, the decedent's niece, testified that at another time first the decedent intended Wolf to receive at least $10,000 off the purchase price of decedent's cabin and that later on the decedent said he wanted Wolf to receive the cabin and its contents for free, as compensation for her services. The cabin and its contents, free and clear, would have been at least the equivalent of compensation in excess of $40,000.
I also wish [Wolf and her husband] to have $10,000 [off] the selling price of the cabin, for the help they furnish me. * * * They are here every day, taking care of everything for me and I think payment would be to give them what I would have to pay for a nursing home every month since then.
From mid-April 1994 to June 1, 1994, Kathy Wimpfheimer, a registered nurse, was employed to assist the decedent on a live-in basis. Wimpfheimer received $1,000 per month for her services.
The district court found that Wolf should be compensated for 2,739 hours. We affirm the district court's computation of 2,739 hours. This is less than the number of hours appellant claimed, but the record supports the district court arriving at this number. Thus, the only issue in this case is reasonable compensation for appellant, an RN, for an undisputed 2,739 hours of quality home care.
The district court held that the reasonable value of Wolf's personal services could only be equivalent to the reasonable value of the services provided by Wimpfheimer. The record does not show how the district court arrived at the legal conclusion that the salary Wimpfheimer negotiated for herself constituted a cap on what Wolf can claim as reasonable compensation. It has to be noted that Wimpfheimer negotiated an informal contract with decedent for $1,000 a month, plus room and board. Wolf is not suing on a contract nor is there any evidence in the record to support a claim that both decedent and Wolf felt bound by what Wimpfheimer received. Wolf's lawsuit, being
, cannot be bound by what another person, for reasons of her own, thought suitable to contract for. But with Wimpfheimer's $1,000 a month (and ignoring the room and board Wimpfheimer received in addition to the $1,000 a month) in mind, the district court broke down Wimpfheimer's salary into 24 hours a day times 30 days a month and arrived at $1.28 an hour and then applied the $1.28 an hour figure against Wolf's 2,739 hours to arrive at an award of $3,505.92.
D E C I S I O N
1. The district court's findings of fact are not to be set aside unless clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.
8 Dunnell Minn. Digest
§ 2.06(a) (4th ed. 1990). The issue here is whether the district court's finding that the reasonable value of Wolf's services was $1.28 per hour is clearly erroneous.
Where a person performs services for another at the other's request but without any agreement about compensation, the person may recover the reasonable value of [her] services on implied contract * * * .
Wolf asserts that because the decedent expressed his intent to give her free and clear the cabin and its contents, he must have believed her services could be worth up to $47,000, which approximately equalled an appraisal of the cabin and its contents. Wolf bases her claim for $42,963 on United Hospital's Personal Care Services Charges schedule. According to that schedule, the charge for personal care services by a registered nurse is $35 per hour and the charge for 24-hour continuous care is $275.
After carefully reviewing the record, it is undisputed that the reasonable value of Wolf's services as an RN is worth far more than $1.28 per hour. The April 26, 1994, note written by the decedent states that he wanted Wolf to receive $10,000 off of the price of the cabin. Respondent Kathy Smart corroborated that the decedent initially wanted Wolf to receive $10,000 off of the price of the cabin, and then testified that the decedent changed his mind and wanted Wolf to receive the cabin and its contents, which would put the compensation at approximately $47,000.
Wimpfheimer did not testify at the hearing, and it is unclear and too speculative to affect the issue before us why she agreed to work for $1,000 per month plus room and board. Wimpfheimer's reasons, whatever they may be, to negotiate her own contract, do not affect the
claim of Wolf.
At the hearing, Wolf introduced a schedule of United Hospital's charges for home care services, which was accepted into evidence. This schedule provides:
PERSONAL CARE SERVICES CHARGES
Homemaker/Chore Services $ 10.00/hour
Home Care Aide $ 12.00/hour
Homemaker/Home Care Aide:
8 hour shifts $ 75.00/hour
24 hour continuous $225.00/day
Respite Care (providing client
needs in place of family
or other caregiver in home) $ 14.00/hour
8 hour shifts $105.00
24 hour continuous $275.00
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) $ 25.00/hour
Registered Nurse (RN) $ 35.00/hour
We conclude the district court's finding that the reasonable value of Wolf's services was $1.28 per hour is clearly erroneous. The evidence showed that United Hospital charged $35 per hour for a registered nurse who performed personal care services. Because not all of the services performed by Wolf needed to be done by a registered nurse, and because the amount United Hospital charges does not reflect the actual amount that United pays an RN, we conclude that $35 an hour is on the high side for a
claim against an estate. But we can think of no reason why Wolf, an RN, should not be entitled to at least the $10 per hour which United Hospital charges for homemaker/chore services. On this record, $10 per hour is conservative and is as fair to the estate as it is to Wolf. We vacate the district court award and direct that Wolf be awarded judgment in the amount of $27,390, representing the 2,739 hours the district court properly concluded she was entitled to be reimbursed for times the rate of $10 per hour.
We vacate the judgment of the district court in the amount of $3,505.92; we direct the district court to enter judgment for Wolf in the amount of $27,390. In addition, we remand to the district court to consider the issue of reasonable costs and disbursements.
Reversed and remanded.
Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.