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Rubenstein v. Rubenstein - 40 N.J. Super. 371, 123 A.2d 67 (Super. Ct. 1956)


A demand made under the urgency of an intimation that if not complied with the law will be appealed to cannot reasonably be claimed to be either extortion or duress, and that rule is applicable even if the sanction of the criminal law is the basis of the intimation where there is in fact criminal liability.


In 1953, a husband conveyed to a corporation wholly owned by his wife all of his interest in two parcels of real property in Marlboro Township and the Borough of Farmingdale, respectively. In 1955, the couple obtained a final judgment of divorce. The divorce was filed by the husband on grounds for extreme cruelty. Thus, the husband sought an action to compel his ex-wife to reconvey to him a one-half interest in the real property in question or, in the alternative, to issue to him shares of capital stock in the ex-wife's corporation equalling one half of the total outstanding stock therein. He further sought the establishment of a lien upon the proceeds of the sale of lands in his favor to the extent of one-half and asks an adjudication that the ex-wife is seized of the real estate in question as trustee for two infant children of the marriage. The husband contended that the conveyance was made under duress because during that time, the couple was undergoing a separation and over a course of two years the ex-wife allegedly threatened his life, made insistent and repeated demands for him to convey the property, and had him arrested for non-support and desertion. She also told the husband that she would pursue legal action if he did not provide support or make the conveyance.


Should the conveyance be rescinded because duress was present during the conveyance?




The court entered judgment in favor of the ex-wife. The court held that a transaction would be deemed to have been procured by duress if it could be shown that the action sought to be avoided would not have taken place had it not been for the allegedly coercive acts. The court held that the husband failed to sustain his burden of proving that the threats produced any fears that played a causal role in inducing his conveyance. The court found that it was the husband's desire to be relieved of any further pecuniary obligations to the ex-wife and their children which constituted a compulsive influence on him. The court did not rescind the conveyance.

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