Roberson v. Williams, 98

Decision Date13 October 1954
Docket NumberNo. 98,98
Citation240 N.C. 696,83 S.E.2d 811
PartiesMrs. Annie L. ROBERSON v. D. C. WILLIAMS, Jr.
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court

Critcher & Gurganus, Williamston, for plaintiff, appellant.

Lucas, Rand & Rose, Wilson, and Clarence W. Griffin, Williamston, for defendant, appellee.

HIGGINS, Justice.

The sole question presented here is whether the evidence of actionable fraud taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff was sufficient to go to the jury. (If the evidence was insufficient, the judgment of nonsuit should be affirmed.) If it was sufficient, the case should go back for submission to the jury.

Ordinarily, when parties are on equal footing, competent to contract, enter into an agreement on a lawful subject, and do so fairly and honorably, the law does not permit inquiry as to whether the contract was good or bad, whether it was wise or foolish. However, under certain conditions, when fraud by one party is an inducement which influences the other party to contract to his prejudice, the law does permit inquiry.

'Fraud has no all-embracing definition. Because of the multifarious means by which human ingenuity is able to devise means to gain advantages by false suggestions and concealment of the truth, and in order that each case may be determined on its own facts, it has been wisely stated 'that fraud is better left undefined,' lest, as Lord Hardwicke put it, ''the craft of men should find a way of committing fraud which might escape such a rule or definition.'' Furst & Thomas v. Merritt, 190 N. C. 397, at page 404, 130 S.E. 40, 44. However, in general terms fraud may be said to embrace 'all acts, ommissions, and concealments involving a breach of legal or equitable duty and resulting in damage to another, or the taking of undue or unconscientious advantage of another.' 37 C.J.S., Fraud, § 1, p. 204. ' Vail v. Vail, 233 N.C. 109, 113, 63, S.E.2d 202, 205.

'It is not always necessary in order to establish actionable fraud that a false representation should be knowingly made. It is well recognized with us that under certain conditions and circumstances if a party to a bargain avers the existence of a material fact recklessly or affirms its existence positively when he is consciously ignorant whether it be true or false he must be held responsible for a falsehood. Plaintiff must establish either positive fraud or that she was deceived and thrown off her guard by false statements designedly made at the time and that such statements were reasonably relied upon by her. Butler v. Armour Fertilizer Works, supra, [193 N. C. 632, 137 S.E. 813]. False assurances and statements of the other party may, of themselves, be sufficient to carry the issue to the jury when there has been nothing to arrest the attention or arouse suspicion concerning them. Butler v. Armour Fertilizer Works, supra; McCall v. Toxaway Tanning Co., 152 N.C. 648, 68 S.E. 136; Whitehurst v. Life Ins. Co., supra, [149 N.C. 273, 62 S.E. 1067]; Planters' Bank & Trust Co. v. Yelverton, 185 N.C. 314, 117 S.E. 299.' Ward v. Heath, 222 N. C. 470, 473, 24 S.E.2d 5, 8.

In this case the plaintiff, a widow, was the owner of a tract of timber that she had never seen; it was located 14 miles from her home. The defendant sought out the plaintiff for the purpose of buying the timber rights. The permissible inference is that he knew the timber and he sought out its owner for the purpose of negotiating a deal. First off, he was met with the statement that she had never seen it, had never been on the land, and did not know the amount or value and did not want to sell for that reason. At every meeting, according to the evidence, she repeated lack of knowledge sufficient to enable her to make a contract. Finally, the defendant, on October 31, 1952, again appeared at plaintiff's home and with him a Mr. Sparrow, who had been somewhat active in attempting to close the deal. Also with them was another man whom they did not introduce other than as a timber cruiser. He was called on by Mr. Sparrow in the presence of the defendant, and...

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27 cases
  • Crockett v. First Federal Sav. and Loan Ass'n of Charlotte
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • 14 Mayo 1976
    ...security of the lender was not threatened. As was wisely said by Justice Higgins speaking for our Court in Roberson v. Williams, 240 N.C. 696, 700, 701, 83 S.E.2d 811, 814 (1954), 'Ordinarily, when parties are on equal footing, competent to contract, enter into an agreement on a lawful subj......
  • In re EPIC Mortg. Ins. Litigation
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • 28 Julio 1988
    ...in its oral presentations was true. Johnson v. Lockman, 41 N.C.App. 54, 59, 254 S.E.2d 187, 190 (1979) (quoting Roberson v. Williams, 240 N.C. 696, 702, 83 S.E.2d 811, 815 (1954)), cert. denied, 297 N.C. 610, 257 S.E.2d 436 (1979). Accord Northwestern Bank v. Roseman, 81 N.C. App. 228, 233-......
  • Knutton v. Cofield, 194
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • 27 Marzo 1968
    ...281; Dennis v. Albemarle, 242 N.C. 263, 87 S.E.2d 561. Courts do not make contracts. As stated by Higgins, J., in Roberson v. Williams, 240 N.C. 696, 83 S.E.2d 811, 'Ordinarily, when parties are on equal footing, competent to contract, enter into an agreement on a lawful subject, and do so ......
  • Norburn v. Mackie
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • 20 Mayo 1964
    ...are thoroughly established by our decisions and need not be restated. See Keith v. Wilder, 241 N.C. 672, 86 S.E.2d 444; Roberson v. Williams, 240 N.C. 696, 83 S.E.2d 811; Cofield v. Griffin, 238 N.C. 377, 78 S.E.2d 131, 40 A.L.R.2d 966; Whitehurst v. Life Insurance Co., 149 N.C. 273, 62 S.E......
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