Dentist ordered to pay his mother €600,000 for his upbringing

Taiwan’s supreme court rules that the man must fulfil terms of a contract with his mother

It is an age-old arrangement, and one that is usually implicit: Parents pay for their children’s educations, and hope that in their old age the children will support them. But in a case that made its way to Taiwan’s highest court, a mother who had financed her son’s dental training sued him, asserting that he had broken a written agreement to use the proceeds of his dental practice to support her. On Tuesday, the supreme court sided with the mother.

The case attracted considerable attention because the mother and son had put down in a written contract, signed when he was 20, what is often left unsaid, particularly in a Confucian-influenced society that emphasises filial piety. The principle is backed up by law in Taiwan, where adults are legally prohibited from abandoning their parents.

Each side had advanced arguments: The mother urged the court to enforce the contract. The son maintained he had already paid his mother $1 million (about €830,000) and should not have to pay her more.

According to Taiwanese media covering the case, the woman, identified only by her surname, Luo, raised her two sons after she and their father divorced, putting both through dental school.


When she filed her lawsuit eight years ago, the woman said she had come from a well-to-do doctor’s family. “When I was young I came from a naive and wealthy family and married into a military family that didn’t even have a license” to practise medicine, Luo said, according to the Apple Daily in Taiwan. “I sacrificed all of my leisure time.”

Luo’s family provided funds that enabled her to run a dental clinic where her husband, surnamed Chu, practised until their divorce.

Luo told the supreme court that as a single mother working to put her sons through dental school, she was concerned that they might not help support her in old age, so she had each sign an agreement when they turned 20.

The agreement stipulated that after becoming dentists, her sons would pay her 60 per cent of their net profits until the total amount paid reached 50 million new Taiwan dollars, or just under $1.7 million.

Her sons both became practising dentists in 2003, the Apple Daily reported.

According to a report in The Liberty Times, the son in question told the court that he worked in his mother’s dental clinic and had repaid her more than $1 million.

Given that he signed the contract when he was only 20, and that he had already paid back so much of his contractual debt to his mother, he argued that his debt should be cleared.

The court disagreed, however, ruling on Tuesday that because he signed the agreement as a legal adult, he was responsible for satisfying its terms.

Upbringing fee

The court ordered him to pay an “upbringing fee” of more than $754,000 (about €600,000), with additional interest bringing the total award for his mother to more than $967,000 (about €800,000). In Taiwan, filial piety and education are widely recognised as important virtues, but young people face a tougher economic environment than their parents. The verdict drew mixed reactions.

“I believe everyone should want to repay their parents for raising them once they’ve grown old, so I support the judges’ decision,” one Taipei-based dentist, Wu Chih-hang (30), said in a phone interview.

“I also sympathise with the dentist’s rough lot,” he said. “His mother went as far as to put a value on raising her son, which is probably a difficult environment for the average person to imagine growing up in.”

But a Facebook user, Huang Ya-ling, was critical of the dentist. "Unfilial people are beneath pigs and dogs," she wrote. - New York Times