Wilson v. Adkins
Alta WILSON et al., Appellants,
Ronnie ADKINS et al., Appellees.
Court of Appeals of Arkansas,
57 Ark.App. 43, 941 S.W.2d 440
Appellant Alta Wilson, a resident of Florida, sued her nephew, Ronnie Adkins, in chancery court for detrimental reliance, breach of contract, and fraud stemming from an alleged agreement in which the appellant agreed to donate bone marrow to her ailing sister in exchange for $101,500.00 as compensation for risk in the procedure. The chancellor granted appellees’ motion to dismiss on the detrimental reliance count, and the case was transferred to circuit court... We affirm the chancellor’s dismissal based on the blatantly illegal nature of the alleged contract.
Despite this stringent review of grants of 12(b)(6) dismissal, courts are very reluctant to allow clearly illegal contracts to survive even the pleading stage of litigation...
Here, the complaint states in paragraph II:
That on or about the 1st day of April 1992, the Plaintiff, Alta Wilson and the Defendant Ronnie Adkins and the Defendant Georgia Adkins, now deceased, entered into an agreement whereby the Plaintiff would elect and act as a bone marrow donor for the benefit of the Defendant, Georgia Adkins.
The complaint artfully characterizes the agreement as an exchange of $101,500.00 for the risk, difficulties, and insurance consequences of appellant’s marrow donation. While appellants’ attorney goes to great lengths to disguise the nature of the contract, it is, as the trial court noted, “so intertwined and commingled that [it] cannot be separated,” and clearly falls under the rubric of federal law on the sale of human organs. Here, the complaint essentially admits that the parties contracted for an illegal sale of organs. No matter how the appellants’ attorney characterizes the transaction, the dollar amount and the consideration are telling signs that the contract is one for the sale of an organ in violation of federal law.
Title 42 of the United States Code section 274(e) provides the following:
It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation if the transfer affects interstate commerce.
Any person who violates subsection (a) of this section shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
For purposes of subsection (a) of this section:
(1) The term “human organ” means the human (including fetal) kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, bone marrow, cornea, eye, bone, and skin or any subpart thereof and any other human organ (or any subpart thereof, including that derived from a fetus) specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services by regulation.
(2) The term “valuable consideration” does not include the reasonable payments associated with the removal, transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, and storage of a human organ or the expenses of travel, housing, and lost wages incurred by the donor of a human organ in connection with the donation of the organ.
(3) The term “interstate commerce” has the meaning prescribed for it by section 321(b) of Title 21.(c) Definitions
While this statute does allow “reasonable payments” for the cost of the procedure and incidental expenses, it is clear that $101,500.00 is not payment for reasonable incidental expenses incurred in the organ donation, but is an illegal sale of an organ specifically prohibited by federal law.
Here, while the contract the appellants seek to enforce is not a bribe, the act of selling one’s organs is equally offensive, and just as clearly illegal as bribery. While the statute regarding organ sales is relatively modern (1986), its genesis is in a clear public policy based on long standing attitudes about transplantation of organs. “Laws regarding the removal of human tissues for transplantation implicate moral, ethical, theological, philosophical, and economic concerns which do not readily lend themselves to analysis within a traditional legal framework.” State v. Powell, 497 So.2d 1188, 1194 (Fla.1986)…..
Based on the reasoning in (Perry v. Saint Francis Hosp. & Medical Ctr., 886 F.Supp. 1551, 1563 n. 7 (D.Kan.1995)), and the equitable concerns implicit in certain types of attempts to contract as summarized in Womack, it is wholly appropriate for a trial court to refuse to meddle in the illegal dealings of parties when the subject matter of their agreement is so clearly repulsive to public policy and federal law. Such an analysis is equally persuasive on each count (contract, detrimental reliance, and fraud) where, as in the present case, both parties were in pari delicto, or equally culpable or criminal. As stated in Womack, “[W]here an illegal contract has been made, neither courts of law nor of equity will interpose to grant any relief to the parties, but will leave them where it finds them, if they have been equally cognizant of the illegality.” (Citation omitted.) Womack, 227 Ark. at 788, 301 S.W.2d at 439.
Here, it is clear on the face of appellants’ complaint that the activity amounted to a sale of organs in violation of federal law. Accordingly, the trial court’s dismissal was appropriate.
ROBBINS, C.J., and STROUD, J., agree.
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