Legal Terms and Unfair Advantage

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Donnelly v. Rees
Donnelly v. Rees 141 Cal. 56, Cal. 1903

Action can be taken from the sole heir of a deceased person in order to set aside a deed acquired from the deceased from the defendants using fraudulent means. The deceased was known to be a habitual alcoholic for five years prior to the execution of the deed. This pattern of alcoholic behavior can to an extent seriously impair the mind. The deceased was also intoxicated at the time as to render him unfit to be able to transact business, and entirely incapable of realizing, understanding, or attending to the transaction. Issue

The issue in this case is whether the deceased was taken advantage of by someone who holds authority over him, whether his mind was weak at the time and whether or not he was taken advantage of under distress. Rule

CAL.Civ.Code § 1575
Undue Influence
Undue influence consists:
1.In the use, by one in whom a confidence is reposed by another, or who holds a real or apparent authority over him, of such confidence or authority for the purpose of obtaining an unfair advantage over him; 2.In taking an unfair advantage of another's weakness of mind; or, 3.In taking a grossly oppressive and unfair advantage of another's necessities or distress Application

California civil code 1575 states that: Undue influence consists of taking an unfair advantage of another's weakness of mind and obtaining an unfair advantage over him. Basically this means that since the deceased was under the influence of alcohol at the time that he signed over the deed that this contract should be null and void. The deceased lacked the mental capacity to make this type of decision. Therefore this contract is not legal. Conclusion

In this case the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff. It was concluded that the defendant obtained the deceased signature while he was intoxicated which deeply impaired his mental capacity to make such a decision, therefore it was ruled a fraudulent contract.
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