Thursday, December 12, 2013

Francois v. Francois case brief

Francois v. Francois case brief summary
599 F.2d 1286 (1979)

Defendant wife appealed from the judgment of the District Court of the Virgin Islands, Division of St. Thomas and St. John, contending that the district court erred in setting aside a property and separation agreement with plaintiff husband, and erred in placing the burden of proof on her to demonstrate the fairness of the transaction.

Plaintiff husband sought rescission of an agreement he executed with defendant wife to separate, divide, and transfer real and personal property. The district court declared the agreement and the conveyances null and void because defendant exerted undue influence over plaintiff. It restored title to one parcel of real property and various securities to plaintiff.

  • Defendant appealed, and the court held that the evidence supported findings that the relationship was one in which plaintiff reposed total trust and confidence in defendant, who used her superior position to plaintiff's financial detriment. 
  • Thus, the trial court, after determining the existence of a confidential relationship, quite properly allocated the burden of proof to defendant, and found undue influence. 
  • Although there was no formal explanation of the reasoning behind the attorney's fees award, the hourly rate charged was reasonable, and no objection was made to hours claimed. 
  • Thus, the court affirmed the orders of the district court.
The court affirmed the district court's decision which made the parties' agreement null and void for undue influence and abuse of a confidential relationship, and allowed the award of attorney fees.

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