This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
If A renders services for B, and A does not intend at the time of their rendition to make any charge therefor, and B knows of such intention, A cannot subsequently, upon changing his mind, recover for such services as upon an implied contract, even if such work was done with B's knowledge or at B's request.1 The operation of this principle is clearest where the services are rendered under an express agreement that no charge shall be made therefor. If A performs services for B under an express agreement that they are to be gratuitous, he cannot subsequently recover therefor.2 The principle is by no means limited to cases of express agreement that no compensation shall be made, but extends to cases where from the acts of the parties and the surrounding circumstances it is apparent that the party by whom the services were rendered did not intend to charge therefor and the party for whom they were rendered accepted them in reliance upon such intention. Thus where services are rendered solely because of friendship and mutual accommodation,3 as where a real estate broker and an attorney interchange services for accommodation,4 or one renders services as attorney in fact, both parties knowing that the services are to be gratuitous,5 or one renders political services for a friend in a campaign,6 or one friend indorses a note for another, the note being ultimately paid out of the maker's property and no loss resulting to the in-dorser by reason thereof,7 no recovery can be had. If services are rendered without the intent of making a charge therefor, or of creating a legal liability thereby, the fact that the person rendering them did so in the hope that the party receiving them would be grateful therefor, and would manifest such gratitude in some substantial form, such as a gift or legacy, does not give to the party rendering such services a right to recover a reasonable compensation therefor if such hopes are disappointed.8 So services rendered for each other by persons who are under contract to intermarry,9 as where one party furnishes board to the other,10 cannot be recovered for upon breach of the contract to marry, as on an implied contract. The remedy, if any, is by an action for breach of the express promise to marry, and not by an action in quantum meruit. So if a woman believes a man to be single, and marries him and keeps house for him, she cannot recover for services thus rendered, when she discovers that he is already married.11 Where a man marries a woman believing her single, and she was already married, he cannot recover on an implied contract for furnishing her with board, lodging, medical attendance and the like. His damages of this sort are inseparable from his claim for damages for deceit; and accordingly will not survive against her estate.12 Where no such liability exists a subsequent note payable to the order of the maker, not indorsed by him, but delivered to the person performing such services creates no liability.13 Board and lodging furnished to one who comes on invitation as a guest are understood to be gratuitous and no recovery can be had therefor.14 By statute in Kentucky no recovery can be had for board and lodging unless furnished by the keeper of a tavern or house of private entertainment or unless under a contract therefor.15 So where A does work on land which he claims in good faith as his own, recovery therefor from the real owner, after the claimant is defeated by the real owner in an action for the possession of the real property, cannot be had.16 He may, however, set off the increase in the value of the property resulting from his improvements against the amount due from him for rents and profits.17 This right of setoff is founded on "broad and growing principles of equity,"18 and was originally an innovation at Common Law. The Civil Law allowed compensation for the value of the improvements less the use of the land.19 This rule of the Civil Law was adopted by equity. Equity required the real owner to do equity if he was obliged to ask aid of equity to recover his property, and to make compensation for the increase in value due to the improvements placed thereon by the innocent claimant.20 According to the weight of authority, equity could give no further relief, than by way of set-off. Affirmative compensation could not be had.21 In other cases, however, equity has ignored the restriction to set-off and allowed compensation for improvements to the extent of the increase in value due thereto, even if they exceed the amount of rents and profits.22 Modern statutes known as occupying claimant acts, or betterment acts, have extended these principles in specific classes of cases. No discussion of these statutes will, however, be undertaken here. So one who by mistake erects a house on the land of another cannot have compensation therefor.23 The right of recovery exists only in favor of one who in good faith believes himself to be the owner. Thus a tenant for life,24 or for years,25 cannot, in any form of action, have compensation for increase in value due to improvements made by him. One who performs work and labor upon his own property cannot hold others liable therefor upon an implied Contract. He must be taken as having done the work for his own benefit, whatever his secret intention may have been. Thus where A's cattle were sold at auction, and the title thereto did not pass until possession was delivered and the money paid or security given, A cannot recover from the purchaser for keeping such cattle between the time of the auction and the time of giving security.26 A cotenant in possession cannot recover compensation from his cotenants for work done in taking care of the common property as in collecting the rents.27 The principle that no recovery can be had for services rendered by A, whereby B is benefited if A does not intend to make a charge against B therefor, applies even in cases where A believed when he performed the services, that he was bound by a contract with X,28 or by some positive rule of law29 to render such services. Thus where A believing that he is doing work under his contract with X does work which B is under contract to do, A cannot recover from B.30 So, where A is employed by the government to transport mail, and he does not only the work which is required by his contract with the government, but also work which the railroad which hauls the mail is bound to do by reason of its contract with the government, he cannot recover from the railroad where he does this work, thinking that he is bound by his contract with the government to do it.31 So, a county auditor cannot recover from the treasurer where the auditor has made certain tax apportionments and statements which it was the legal duty of the treasurer to make, where both auditor and treasurer are under the impression that it is the auditor's duty to make such apportionment and statements.32 Whether a public corporation or an individual furnished support to a pauper can recover therefor from such pauper if he proves to have property, or subsequently acquires property, depends in the absence of statute on whether the pauper has been guilty of any fraud in inducing such person to furnish such support. If he has not been guilty of fraud, he is not liable in the absence of statute.33