It is immaterial that a donor's hope or expectation that his donee will reciprocate his generosity or indirectly reward him is disappointed. Misreliance upon a supposed legal right, not upon a mere hope of reward, is the foundation of liability - a distinction which the courts not infrequently have been compelled to point out:
Osborn v. Governors of Guy's Hospital, 1727, 2 Str. 728: "The plaintiff brought a quantum meruit pro opere et labore in transacting Mr. Guy's stock affairs in the year 1720. It appeared he was no broker, but a friend; and it looked strongly as if he did not expect to be paid, but to be considered for it in his will. And the Chief Justice [Raymond] directed the jury, that if that was the case, they could not find for the plaintiff, though nothing was given him by the will; for they should consider how it was understood by the parties at the time of doing the business, and a man who expects to be made amends by a legacy cannot afterwards resort to his action."
Collyer v. Collyer, 1889, 113 N. Y. 442; 21 N. E. 114: Action for board and lodging furnished to defendant's intestate, who was a sister of the plaintiff. Earl, J. (p. 449): " It is undoubtedly true that the plaintiff showed great kindness and liberality to his sister. But no one can read this evidence and draw therefrom any inference that he expected any reward from his sister during her lifetime. He knew she was to the utmost degree penurious and miserly, and that she would hoard her pelf and cling to her property so long as she lived. He doubtless expected that by his kindness to her she would be induced to make a favorable disposition of her property in his favor at her death. The fact that his expectation has been disappointed furnishes no ground for now stamping what at the time were acts of kindness and generosity with the mercenary features of a contract and compensation."1
La Fontain v. Hayhurst, 1896, 89 Me. 388; 36 Atl. 623: Action for board furnished defendant and his four children, and for services rendered. The plaintiff testified that she did not, at the time, expect any compensation ; that she was engaged to be married to the defendant and rendered the services in expectation of marriage. The defendant subsequently married another woman. Emery, J. (p. 392): "The services sued for here were no part of that contract [to marry], but merely incidents or consequences of it. The plaintiff expected no pay for them. Her expectation was confined to the promised marriage. With that she would have been satisfied. With damages for its loss she must be satisfied." 2
1 Additional cases of disappointed expectation of legacy: Le Sage v. Coussmaker, 1794, 1 Esp. 187; McClure v. Lenz, 1907, 40 Ind. App. 56; 80 N. E. 988; Lee v. Lee, 1834, 6 Gill & J. (Md.) 316; Mundorff v. Kilbourn, 1853, 4 Md. 459; Davison v. Davison, 1861, 13 N. J. Eq. (2 Beas.) 246; Martin v. Wright's Admrs., 1835, 13 Wend. (N. Y.) 460; 28 Am. Dec. 468; Little v. Dawson, 1791, 4 Dall. (Pa.) Ill; In re Walker's Est., 1832, 3 Rawle (Pa.) 243; Messier v. Messier, 1912, R. I.
; 82 Atl. 996. But see Robeson v. Niles, 1889, 7 Mackey (18 D. C.) 182; Roberts v. Swift, 1793, 1 Yeats (Pa.) 209; 1 Am. Dec. 295.
Analogous to these cases is that of the architect who prepares and submits preliminary sketches in the hope of future employment. See Scott v. Maier, 1885, 56 Mich. 554; 23 N. W. 218; 56 Am. Rep. 402.
2 Accord: Clary v. Clary, 1899, 93 Me. 220; 44 Atl. 921. But see Robinson v. Cumming, 1742, 2 Atkyns 409, in which Lord Hardwicke says (p 409): "If a person has made his addresses to a lady for some time, upon a view of marriage, and, upon a reasonable expectation of success, makes presents to a considerable value, and she thinks proper to deceive him afterwards, it is very right that the presents themselves should be returned, or the value of them allowed to him; but, where presents are made only to introduce a person to a woman's acquaintance, and by means thereof to gain her favor, I look upon such a person only in the light of an adventurer, especially where there is a disproportion between the lady's fortune and his, and therefore, like all other adventurers, if he will run risques, and loses by the attempt, he must take it for his pains."
Similarly, if a benefit is conferred without the intention of charging the recipient, but in the expectation of payment from a third party, the recipient is not liable:
Coleman v. United States, 1894, 152 U. S. 96: 14 S. Ct. 473: Action to recover fees for legal services beneficial to the defendant. It was conceded that complainants did not expect the defendant would compensate them but looked for recompense to the clients who retained them. Mr. Justice Shiras, (p. 99): "We think that a promise to pay for services can only be implied when the court can see that they were rendered in such circumstances as authorized the party performing to entertain a reasonable expectation of their payment by the party benefited."1
The case of a benefit conferred as a gratuity though with the hope or expectation of voluntary reward should be distinguished from that of a benefit conferred in reliance upon a contract right to compensation but with the intention not to enforce such right in the event of an expected reciprocation or reward:
Baxter v. Gray, 1842, 4 Scott N. R. 374: Erskine, J. (p. 376): "It appears from the evidence that the plaintiff forbore to assert his claim in the lifetime of the testatrix, in the expectation that he would be better paid in the shape of a legacy. But, unless it is shown that the plaintiff's services were rendered upon a distinct understanding that he was to receive no remuneration except what the testatrix might think fit to leave him by her will, there is no answer to the action."2
Grandin v. Admr. of Reading, 1855, 10 N. J. Eq. (2 Stock.) 370: The Chancellor (p. 371): "This old lady was maintained by him for eight years. The law implies a contract on her part to remunerate him. To deprive him of the benefit of this implication, the court should be satisfied that he looked alone to Mrs. McCullough's will for remuneration, and intended to rely upon her generosity solely. I am not satisfied from the evidence that such was Joseph Reading's intention."1
2 See also Robeson v. Niles, 1889, 7 Mackey (18 D. C.) 182, (expectation of legacy); Cook v. Bates, 1896, 88 Me. 455; 34 AU. 266, (mutual services); Roberts v. Swift, 1793, 1 Yeats (Pa.) 209; 1 Am. Dec. 295, (expectation of legacy); Von Carlowitz v. Bernstein, 1902, 28 Tex. Civ. App. 8; 66 S. W. 464, (expectation of legacy).