Cundick v. Broadbent

383 F.2d 157 (10th Cir. 1967)



Unimpeached testimony may not be disregarded and the trier of the fact is bound to honor it in the absence of countervailing evidence, expert or non-expert, upon which to rest a contrary finding. But, expert evidence does not foreclose lay testimony concerning the same matter which is within the knowledge and comprehension of the lay witness. A lay witness may tell all he knows about a matter in issue even though it may tend to impugn the conclusions of the expert. The trier of the fact is not concluded by expert proof if other facts and circumstances of the case tend to cast doubt on its credibility. Opinion evidence in cases where the mental capacity of a contracting party is in question is generally considered low grade, and not entitled to much weight against positive testimony of actual facts. The nature and circumstances of the transaction are certainly relevant evidence of the capacity of the parties to contract. The trial judge who heard and saw the witnesses and felt the pulse beat of the lawsuit is, to be sure, the first and best judge of the weight and value to be given to all of the evidence, both expert and non-expert.


The wife sought to nullify the sale agreement reached between her husband and the buyer. The wife alleged that her husband was mentally incompetent at the time of he executed the agreement, and that the buyer knew of the incompetence. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment dismissing the action. The wife was required to prove that her husband did not know the extent and condition of his property, how he was disposing of it, to whom, and upon what consideration. The trial court dismissed the action. On appeal, the court affirmed.


Did the court significantly fail to make an affirmative finding on the issue of competency in the face of positive medical expert testimony to the effect that he was mentally incapable of conducting his affairs, particularly the sale and disposition of all his property?




The court found that the silence in the record concerning any discussion of the husband's mental condition among his family and friends, together with the affirmative evidence of normal behavior during the period of the transaction spoke loudly in support of the trial court's finding that his acts were the acts, conduct, and behavior of a person competent to manage his affairs. As applied to the critical issue of incompetency, that finding led the court to the conclusion reached by the trial judge that when the medical testimony, positive as it may have been, was considered in the context of all that was said and done, it did not carry the heavy burden of proving that the husband was incompetent.

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