A Taiwanese dentist was recently ordered to pay $1 million to his mother in order to honor a contract that he had signed growing up, in which he agrees to pay 60 percent of his net profits until he can cover the cost of his upbringing and education.
The mother, known only as “Luo”, had to raise her two boys by herself, after divorcing her husband. At one point she became worried that despite all her sacrifices, her children would fail to look after her in her old age, so she decided to get some insurance.
In 1997, when her sons were studying to become dentists, she asked them to sign a contract which clearly stipulated that they agreed to pay her part of their earnings until they covered the sum of roughly $1.7 million, as compensation for the money she had spent on their studies and upbringing.
They both did, but one of them failed to honor the deal, so the mother took him to court.
Ms. Luo’s two children became dentists in 2003, and originally agreed to honor their contracts, paying their mother 60% of their earnings. To be fair, they were working in her dental clinic, which she had opened with financial help from her family.
But, after a while, they apparently decided that they had paid her enough and refused to hand over the largest part of their monthly profits to their mother.
While the older son decided to renegotiate the terms of the contact and convinced his mother to lower his debt, the younger one refused to pay anything. The mother sued him and they’ve been fighting in court for eight years.
The polarizing case reached Taiwan’s highest courts, which again heard both parties’ arguments before making a final decision. Ms. Luo maintained that the contracts she signed with her two sons were legally-binding and that she only wanted them to be honored, while the son claimed that he was only 20-years-old when he signed and didn’t fully understand the implications. Furthermore, he had already paid his mother $1 million, which he felt was enough.
The dentist added that the contract violated “good customs”, as raising a child should not be measured in financial terms.
After hearing both parties, a judge ruled that, the dentist, referred to by Taiwanese media as Mr. Chu, signed the contract as an adult, without being forced or tricked into it, so he should honor its terms. The man was ordered to pay the remaining $754,000 of the agreed “upbringing fee” with additional interest raising the debt to his mother to $967,000.
The unusual case has gotten a lot of attention in Taiwan, a country where adults are required by law to take care of their elderly parents. Not all of them do, and parents hardly ever sue their children like this, so this was pretty much a first in a society where filial piety and good parenting are regarded as important virtues.
Some people agreed with the mother and accused the sons of not wanting to take care of her. “Unfilial people are beneath pigs and dogs,” one Facebook user wrote.
“I believe everyone should want to repay their parents for raising them once they’ve grown old, so I support the judge’s decision,” Wu Chih-hang, a young Taipei dentist, told the New York Times.
However, others said that the woman was getting much more money than she had actually spent on her sons upbringing and education.
“The old woman got some serious cash — she got $1.7 million to raise a kid,” a Jason Chen commented on Taiwanese broadcaster EBC’s website. “I’m not even sure if I cost $170,000 to raise.”
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