A finding of undue influence is justified only where the actor's free agency and will have been destroyed and subverted to the extent that his act, instead of expressing his own will, expresses the will of the person exerting the influence.
Methodist Mission Home of Texas, a licensed adoption agency and defendant, appeals froma judgment declaring that certain instruments executed by plaintiff, surrendering parental custody and control of her infant illegitimate child to, and permitting placement of the child for adoption by, defendant are void. The judgment is based on a jury finding that the execution of the instruments by plaintiff was the result of undue influence exerted on her by defendant's agents and employees. During the period between Tuesday, November 26, and Tuesday, December 3, when plaintiff signed the instruments consenting to the adoption, plaintiff was very weak and Mrs. Burns, according to plaintiff repeatedly and "emphatically stressed" that if plaintiff "was any sort of person" she would give up the child. Plaintiff described this period as a "nightmare" during which she was able to sleep only about three hours a day. She testified that, as a result of her discussions with Mrs. Burns, she felt "trapped," and that on Monday, December 2, after Mrs. Burns had repeated everything that the counsellor had said before, she consented to the adoption of her child in order to avoid "harassment.
Was the plaintiff unduly influenced by the workers at the adoption agency to give up her baby?
The Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. In this case we have testimony which amply supports the conclusion that plaintiff was subjected to excessive persuasion. Plaintiff was told, falsely, that she had no right to keep her child. She was accused of being selfish and told that if she "was any kind of person" she would consent to the adoption of her baby. What Mrs. Burns described as a discussion of the "pros and cons" consisted entirely of an endless recital only of the "cons" -- a repetitive monologue of the reasons why plaintiff should not keep her child.