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Error may concern a cause when it bears on the nature of the contract, or the thing that is the contractual object or a substantial quality of that thing, or the person or the qualities of the other party, or the law, or any other circumstance that the parties regarded, or should have regarded, as a cause of the obligation. La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 1950.
William and Lilly Adams were separated by a judgment of separation from bed and board which was rendered on September 19, 1985. Thereafter, the parties entered into a community property settlement contract on September 24, 1985. However, the parties failed to attach to the community property settlement contract an exhibit which described the immovable property belonging to the community. The immovable property described on the exhibit was to be conveyed to Mr. Adams. He was to assume all community debts. William Adams brought suit on October 14, 1985, seeking to force Lilly Adams to sign an amendment to the community property settlement contract which would include the required property descriptions. The suit was later amended to include the description of the "Gin lot," a parcel of land which neither William Adams nor Lilly Adams realized they owned until after the community property settlement contract was negotiated and signed. In her answer to William R. Adam's petition, Lilly Adams requested that the contract be set aside in its entirety due to failure of consent. She also sought alimony pendente lite, despite a provision in the community property settlement contract wherein she purportedly waived her rights to alimony of any kind. The trial judge found the community property settlement contract to be valid and ordered it amended to add the requested immovable property descriptions, including a description of the "Gin Lot," and ordered that Lilly Adams receive $600 per month as alimony pendente lite.
Was the community property settlement contract valid?
The court concluded that the trial judge did not err in holding that the community property settlement contract was valid and binding. The court found that the error did not concern a cause of the contract because the contractual object was the division of the community property listed in the contract. Neither party knew of their interest in the lot and therefore, neither could have intended to maintain or relinquish their interest in that lot. The error in omitting an asset that neither party knew they owned was not one that could cause the contract to be declared null. However, the court did find that the trial court erred in ordering that the settlement contract be amended to include the lot. There was no indication that either party intended for the settlement contract to affect their ownership in the lot because neither party knew that they had an ownership interest in the lot. Because the contract did not provide that all community immovables were to be transferred to William Adams, there could have been no intent to convey the unknown lot to him.