McAlister v. Deatherage

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtSTEAGALL; TORBERT
Citation523 So.2d 387
PartiesThomas O. McALISTER v. Jesse DEATHERAGE, et al. 86-1185.
Decision Date01 April 1988

Page 387

523 So.2d 387
Thomas O. McALISTER
v.
Jesse DEATHERAGE, et al.
86-1185.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
April 1, 1988.

Bill Marthaler, Tuscumbia, for appellant.

John C. Harris, Jr., of Harris and Hasseltine, Florence, for appellees Jesse and Ellen Deatherage.

Donald H. Patterson of Patterson & Jester, Florence, for appellees Marilee Ellis and Ronald Warren Real Estate.

STEAGALL, Justice.

Thomas O. McAlister appeals from a summary judgment granted in favor of the defendants.

On August 3, 1985, McAlister entered into a contract to purchase real property located in Colbert County, Alabama, from defendants Jesse and Ellen Deatherage. The transaction was negotiated by defendant Marilee Ellis, an agent for defendant Ronald Warren Realty Company. On August 19, 1985, the contract was executed by payment of a portion of the purchase price and the assumption of a note and mortgage on which the Deatherages were liable.

On January 27, 1986, McAlister filed this action against the defendants, seeking to set aside the purchase of the real estate. McAlister alleged that at the time he entered into and executed the contract he was under the effect of a mental disease or defect and lacked the capacity to enter into a contract. He also alleged that Ellis and Ronald Warren Realty fraudulently induced him to purchase the property.

The Deatherages answered the complaint and filed a counterclaim for the balance

Page 388

due on the note and mortgage that McAlister assumed. Ellis and Ronald Warren Realty answered, denying the allegations of the complaint.

The Deatherages filed a motion for summary judgment supported by their individual affidavits and by the deposition of Dr. E.J. Phillips. Ellis and Ronald Warren Realty also filed a motion for summary judgment, which was supported by the deposition of McAlister and by the other depositions and affidavits on file in the case. McAlister filed his own motion for summary judgment, which was supported by his deposition, the deposition of Dr. E.J. Phillips, and the affidavits of Dr. Fernando Lopez, Sandra McAlister, and William J. Underwood.

The trial court granted summary judgment for all the defendants. McAlister filed a motion for reconsideration, along with a supporting brief, which motion was denied. McAlister appeals from that summary judgment.

The standards for ruling on a motion for summary judgment are well established:

"Rule 56, Ala.R.Civ.P., sets forth the two-part standard for granting summary judgment. That rule requires the trial court to determine: (1) that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and (2) that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. This rule must be read in conjunction with the scintilla rule so that summary judgment will not be granted if there is a scintilla of evidence supporting the position of the opposing party. Silk v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 437 So.2d 112, 114 (Ala.1983)."

Whitehead v. Johnston, 467 So.2d 240 (Ala.1985).

Likewise, the standard of appellate review is well settled:

"On appeal, we look at the materials presented to the trial court and determine for ourselves, in light of the scintilla rule, whether there were any triable issues of fact due to be decided by the jury. Chiniche v. Smith, 374 So.2d 872 (Ala.1979)."

Jarrard v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 495 So.2d 584 (Ala.1986). If there is evidence supporting plaintiff's position, entry of summary judgment is inappropriate and is due to be reversed. Legg v. Kelly, 412 So.2d 1202 (Ala.1982).

In Alabama, the rule is that contracts of insane persons are wholly and completely void. Williamson v. Matthews, 379 So.2d 1245 (Ala.1980); Code of Alabama (1975), § 8-1-170. The question then goes to what constitutes insanity. Alabama has essentially adopted a cognitive (understanding) test to answer this question. In Hall v. Britton, 216 Ala. 265, 113 So. 238 (1927), the Court stated:

"In order to render a deed void because of the mental incapacity of the grantor--and the principle is the same for any other signatory--the test is 'not merely that the grantor's mental powers were impaired, but whether he had sufficient capacity to understand in a reasonable manner the nature and effect of the act which he was doing.' "

216 Ala. at 267, 113 So. at 239.

"[T]o avoid a contract on the ground of insanity, it must be satisfactorily shown that the party was incapable of transacting the particular business in question. It is not enough to show that he was the subject of delusions not affecting the subject-matter of the transaction, nor that he was, in other respects, mentally weak. A party cannot avoid a contact, free from fraud or undue influence, on the ground of mental incapacity, unless it be shown that his insanity ... was of such character that he had no reasonable perception or understanding of the nature and terms of the contract."

Weaver v. Carothers, 228 Ala. 157, 160, 153 So. 201, 202 (1934).

Depositions submitted on behalf of McAlister included those of his past and present psychiatrists plus his own deposition and supporting affidavits.

McAlister was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder (manic-depression) at least as far back as 1967, when the military service declared him to be 100 percent disabled. Since that time he has not worked, living

Page 389

entirely off Veterans Administration benefits and social security benefits. McAlister began seeing Dr. Lopez in 1975 and was treated by Dr. Lopez until...

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28 practice notes
  • Target Media Partners Operating Co. v. Specialty Mktg. Corp., 1091758.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 6 Septiembre 2013
    ...not by a motion to reconsider.' " Ex parte Mutual Sav. Life Ins. Co., 765 So.2d 649, 651 (Ala.1998) (quoting McAlister v. Deatherage, 523 So.2d 387, 389 (Ala.1988) ).'"Accordingly, SEI was correct in arguing that, after its December 11, 2006, order denying the postjudgment motions, the tria......
  • Se Environmental Infrastructures v. Rivers, 1060615.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • 27 Junio 2008
    ...not by a motion to reconsider."' Ex parte Mutual Sav. Life Ins. Co., 765 So.2d 649, 651 (Ala.1998) (quoting McAlister v. Deatherage, 523 So.2d 387, 389 Accordingly, SEI was correct in arguing that, after its December 11, 2006, order denying the postjudgment motions, the trial court did not ......
  • Mason v. Acceptance Loan Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 27 Septiembre 2002
    ...wholly and completely void. See, Williamson v. Matthews, 379 So.2d 1245 (Ala.1980); Ala.Code 1975, § 8-1-170. In McAlister v. Deatherage, 523 So.2d 387, 388 (Ala.1988), quoting from Weaver v. Carothers, 228 Ala. 157, 160, 153 So. 201, 202 (1934), this Court explained the cognitive (understa......
  • Ex Parte Chris Langley Timber & Management, No. 1031478.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 22 Julio 2005
    ...Hall v. Britton, 216 Ala. 265, 267, 113 So. 238, 239 (1927), quoting in turn 18 C.J. 218, § 131); see also McAlister v. Deatherage, 523 So.2d 387, 388 (Ala.1988), and Weaver v. Carothers, 228 Ala. 157, 153 So. 201 (1934). In order to render a deed void, the burden of proof is on the party a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
28 cases
  • Target Media Partners Operating Co. v. Specialty Mktg. Corp., 1091758.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 6 Septiembre 2013
    ...not by a motion to reconsider.' " Ex parte Mutual Sav. Life Ins. Co., 765 So.2d 649, 651 (Ala.1998) (quoting McAlister v. Deatherage, 523 So.2d 387, 389 (Ala.1988) ).'"Accordingly, SEI was correct in arguing that, after its December 11, 2006, order denying the postjudgment motions, the tria......
  • Se Environmental Infrastructures v. Rivers, 1060615.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • 27 Junio 2008
    ...not by a motion to reconsider."' Ex parte Mutual Sav. Life Ins. Co., 765 So.2d 649, 651 (Ala.1998) (quoting McAlister v. Deatherage, 523 So.2d 387, 389 Accordingly, SEI was correct in arguing that, after its December 11, 2006, order denying the postjudgment motions, the trial court did not ......
  • Mason v. Acceptance Loan Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 27 Septiembre 2002
    ...wholly and completely void. See, Williamson v. Matthews, 379 So.2d 1245 (Ala.1980); Ala.Code 1975, § 8-1-170. In McAlister v. Deatherage, 523 So.2d 387, 388 (Ala.1988), quoting from Weaver v. Carothers, 228 Ala. 157, 160, 153 So. 201, 202 (1934), this Court explained the cognitive (understa......
  • Ex Parte Chris Langley Timber & Management, No. 1031478.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 22 Julio 2005
    ...Hall v. Britton, 216 Ala. 265, 267, 113 So. 238, 239 (1927), quoting in turn 18 C.J. 218, § 131); see also McAlister v. Deatherage, 523 So.2d 387, 388 (Ala.1988), and Weaver v. Carothers, 228 Ala. 157, 153 So. 201 (1934). In order to render a deed void, the burden of proof is on the party a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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