Wright v. Newman, 266 Ga. 519 (1996)

Case Name: Wright v. Newman
Plaintiff/Appellee: Kim Newman
Defendant/Appellant: Bruce Wright
Citation: 266 Ga. 519, 467 S.E.2d 533 (1996)


Issue:
Whether Wright can be held liable for child support for Newman’s son under the doctrine of promissory estoppel, even though the child is not Wright’s son.

Key Facts: Wright is the father of Newman’s daughter but not the father of Newman’s son. Newman filed suit to recover child support for both her daughter and son. Wright listed himself as the father on the son’s birth certificate and gave the son his last name. Wright knew that he was not the natural father. This evidenced that Wright promised both Newman and her son that he would assume the obligations and responsibilities of fatherhood, including providing support.

The detriment alleged is that Newman refrained from identifying and seeking support from the child’s natural father.

Procedural History: The trial court ordered Wright to pay child support for both children.

Holding: Under the evidence, the duty to support, which the defendant voluntarily assumed 10 years ago remains enforceable under the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

Judgment: Affirmed

Reasoning: Elements of promissory estoppel were met:

  • A promise – The defendant listed himself as the father on the child’s birth certificate and gave the child his last name, although he knew he was not the natural father.
  • The detriment – The plaintiff refrained from identifying and seeking support from the child’s natural father.
  • Reasonable Reliance – The defendant was the father of her other child and although it is disputed, remained in the child’s life for 10 years.
  • Injustice – Loss of child support for her son

Dissent: Plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof that she incurred detriment by refraining from identifying and seeking support from the child’s natural father. The majority fails to state why she is prevented from now instituting a child support action against the natural father. Furthermore, Wright’s undisputed contentions are that he did not support the child the past seven years.

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