Law School Case Brief
Whitten v. Greeley-Shaw - 520 A.2d 1307 (Me. 1987)
Every contract requires "consideration" to support it, and any promise not supported by consideration is unenforceable.
As assignee of a promissory note secured by a mortgage deed of a home in Harpswell, he sought to foreclose due to the Defendant's failure to pay any portion of the $64,000 long since overdue him on the promissory note. Defendant, Shirley C. Greeley-Shaw, alleged that she was the owner of certain property, which she had received it from plaintiff, George D. Whitten, as an incident of their four-year romantic relationship, and as assistance toward her efforts to start life anew with her fiancee. While the Defendant admits to having executed both the promissory note and the mortgage deed in favor of the Plaintiff's assignor, she argues that neither the Plaintiff, nor his attorney (who was the assignor), had informed her of what the documents were that she was signing, their legal significance, or that she would be responsible for annual payments on the note. She claims that it was not until a week later, when photocopying the documents, that she thoroughly examined them and realized their legal significance. Not until the foreclosure action was commenced, however, did Defendant make known to the Plaintiff her misunderstanding. Plaintiff subsequently filed a counterclaim, showing as evidence a one-page typewritten document (hereinafter, “Agreement”), wherein the parties agreed, among many others, for the plaintiff to make major repairs to the subject property in exchange of defendant not calling plaintiff at his home, without the latter’s prior permission. The Superior Court (Cumberland County) entered judgment against defendant in the foreclosure action, and refused to recognize the Agreement as a valid contract.
- Was it error for the Superior Court to rule against defendant in the foreclosure action?
- Was the “Agreement” a valid contract?
As to the first issue, the Court held that there was ample evidence to support the finding of the lower court that the defendant was aware of the nature of the documents she was signing, and consequently, of its legal responsibilities. According to the Court, the defendant entered into the contract voluntarily. The Court averred that it was to no avail that the defendant objected to the contents of a contract, that she admitted she “barely looked at”, despite having been given the opportunity, and indeed encouragement to read. As to the second issue, the Court held that the “Agreement” was not a legally enforceable contract as no consideration was present.
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