A common theme here is that undue influence cases tend to be very fact specific. Last month, in Mays v. Porter, the Kentucky Court of Appeals gave us some guidance on what evidence is sufficient under Kentucky law to set aside a deed based on undue influence.
Charles and Liddia Porter executed a deed conveying their home to Terry and Brenda Mays. Liddia sought to set aside the deed claiming that she was coerced into signing it through undue influence and fraud. There was a bench trial in which numerous witnesses testified that Terry and Brenda attempted to influence Charles and Liddia. There was also testimony that Charles was of poor health and mental condition at the time the deed was executed, and Liddia had a history of complying with Charles’ business decisions despite her own personal misgivings. What makes this case unique is that the trial court concluded that the deed was the result of undue influence over Liddia by Charles - not Terry and Brenda.
The appellate court determined that Charles’ undue influence over Liddia was sufficient to set aside the deed. There was evidence from the attorney who prepared the deed that Liddia attempted to ask questions about the deed, but that Charles did not permit her to do so prior to executing the deed. There was also evidence that Charles had previously exerted physical force over Liddia and that she refrained from going against Charles’ wishes because she feared for her safety. As a result, there was sufficient evidence to support a finding that Liddia did not wish to execute the deed and she would not have done so absent Charles’ insistence.