Deed - Undue Influence


Mitchell v. Brooks, [Ms. 1170490, Mar. 22, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2019). The Court (Mitchell, J.; Parker, C.J., Shaw, Bryan, and Mendheim, JJ., concur) affirms the Marshall Circuit Court’s judgment entered after a four-day non-jury trial rejecting claims of the deceased’s children that a deed to the deceased’s spouse was infected by undue influence. The Court first rejected the children’s claim that the ore tenus presumption did not apply. The Court noted that the record indicated that numerous facts were in dispute so that the judgment was clothed with the ore tenus presumption of correctness. Ms. *17.

The Court explained

“Undue influence is variously defined as influence that dominates the grantor’s will and coerces it to serve the will of another, Adair v. Craig, 135 Ala. 332, 33 So. 902 (1902); influence which renders the grantor the passive agent of the dominating will of another, Cox v. Parker, 212 Ala. 35, 101 So. 657 (1924). In determining dominance, however, it is not a question whether the party knew what he was doing, had done, or proposed to do, but how the intention was produced. Wooddy v. Matthews, 194 Ala. 390, 69 So. 607 (1915).”

Ms. *18-19, quoting Wyatt v. Riley, 292 Ala. 277, 282, 293 So. 3d 288, 291 (1974).

In affirming the ore tenus judgment rejecting the children’s claim of undue influence, the Court held “that the trial court heard and considered evidence from which it could have concluded that [the husband] was not the dominant party in his relationship with [the wife] at the time she deeded the Boaz house to him. The undisputed evidence indicated that [the wife] struggled with what to do with her estate and worried about the effect her decisions would have on her family. With regard to the Boaz house, there is evidence indicating that [the wife] changed her mind multiple times and that, on at least some occasions, she indicated that she wanted [the husband] to have the house. Ms. *25-26.

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