Eymard v. Terrebonne

560 So. 2d 887 (La. Ct. App. 1990)

 

RULE:

Civil Code article 1962 provides that a threat of doing a lawful act, or a threat of exercising a right, does not constitute duress. Duress is to be considered in light of subjective characteristics of the person whose consent is challenged; however, according to Civil Code article 1959, the fear must be "reasonable" and of "unjust" injury.

FACTS:

The mother of the minor child was 16 years old when she had the baby. She asserted that the alleged father acknowledged paternity and agreed to pay child support. The father signed agreements to that effect. The father was 18 years old when he signed the documents in question. Approximately four months after the child's birth, the father was the victim of a catastrophic car accident which left him in a comatose state from which he never emerged. His mother was confirmed as his provisional curatrix and administered his estate. The curatrix asserted that her son signed the agreements under duress based on threats from the mother's family. The district court held that the curatrix did not meet her burden of showing duress or that the signature on the documents were a forgery. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

ISSUE:

Did the curatrix carry the burden of proving that the signature of her son on the Acknowledgment of Paternity was a forgery or obtained through duress?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The testimony that the mother's family gave the father "flak" was insufficient to establish duress. Civil Code article 1962 provides that a threat of doing a lawful act, or a threat of exercising a right, does not constitute duress. Duress is to be considered in light of subjective characteristics of the person whose consent is challenged; however, according to Civil Code article 1959, the fear must be "reasonable" and of "unjust" injury. Thus, there is an objective as well as a subjective component of duress. Further, the curatrix did not meet her burden of rebutting the presumed validity of alleged father's acknowledgment of paternity, which was facially valid.

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