Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
In Connecticut a party may avoid certain contractual obligations on the ground that at the time they are entered into he or she is mentally incapacitated. A party cannot be bound to a contract if they are intoxicated when they enter into the contract. The rationale for this is that compulsive alcoholism may be a form of mental illness. If drunkenness is so extreme as to prevent any manifestation of assent, there is no capacity to contract. Otherwise the other party is affected only by intoxication of which he has reason to know. The contracts and conveyances of a person non compos mentis, when not under guardianship, are voidable and not void.
The plaintiffs, Jacqueline Ervin and Curtis Ervin, commenced this action against the defendant Hosanna Ministry, Inc., a/k/a/ Hosanna Ministries, Inc., and Obie Ponton, on October 3, 1994. The Ervins alleged that on or about December, 1992, Jacqueline Ervin was admitted into the care and custody of the defendant Hosanna Ministry for treatment and rehabilitation with respect to her alcohol/drug addictions. Funds were paid for Jacqueline Ervin's acceptance and admittance into the program. On May 4, 1993, plaintiff Jacqueline Ervin allegedly slipped and fell due to water accumulation on a slippery floor. They also alleged that the defendant Obie Ponton, as agent and employee of defendant Hosanna, fraudulently misrepresented that Hosanna Ministry was a drug/treatment center licensed by the state, and that he (Ponton) was certified as a Connecticut substance abuse counselor. Defendants alleged one special defense: contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff, Jacqueline Ervin. On July 11, 1995, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that Jacqueline Ervin waived her right to bring any claim based upon the defendants' intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct by "freely" and "with full comprehension" signing a general release on January 17, 1993. Plaintiffs filed an objection to the motion, alleging in substance that Jacqueline had no recollection of signing the release, was in a diminished capacity if she did sign the release, and that there were fraudulent misrepresentations made to the plaintiff at the time of admittance into Hosanna Ministry's drug/alcohol rehabilitation program, and these misrepresentations induced her to enroll in the program.
Should the motion for summary judgment based on Jacqueline’s waiver be allowed?
Jacqueline’s affidavit raised a genuine issue of material fact as to her assent to the general release. As her affidavit indicated that she has no "recollection" of signing a waiver or release, an issue of fact existed as to whether she actually signed the release and assented to its terms. Even if the court were to conclude, for the purposes of summary judgment consideration, that Jacqueline Ervin actually signed the general release, an issue of material fact would remain as to whether Jacqueline Ervin's signature was made "freely" and with "full comprehension." If, as claimed in her affidavit, she was under the influence of drugs, she may have lacked the mental capacity to execute such a general release of all claims. If the plaintiff was intoxicated or lacked mental capacity due to her addictions, then an issue existed as to whether she assented to the agreement.