Smith v. Riviere, 6556

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas. Court of Civil Appeals of Texas
Citation248 S.W.2d 526
Docket NumberNo. 6556,6556
PartiesSMITH et al. v. RIVIERE.
Decision Date15 February 1951

Pollard, Reeves & Boulter, and Lawrence & Lawrence, all of Tyler, for appellants.

Rex Emerson, Fairfield, Smith, Johnson & Hathaway, Tyler, for appellee.

HALL, Chief Justice.

This action was instituted on behalf of appellee against appellants for title and possession of a 93-acre tract of land located in Smith County. A second count sought cancellation of a deed dated March 20, 1943, from appellee to appellant Daisy Smith, on the grounds that appellee was mentally incompetent to execute said deed, that he was unduly influenced by appellant Daisy Smith and for failure of consideration. Appellants joined the issues and in a trial before a jury a verdict was rendered in favor of appellee, and, accordingly judgment was entered for appellee for title and possession of the land and removing the cloud cast upon appellee's title by the recording of said deed.

By their fifth point appellants assert that the trial court erred in admitting in evidence the jury verdict and judgment in the lunacy proceedings in the case of State of Texas v. Paul Riviere, dated April 22, 1946, 'for the reason that such judgment was entered at a time long anterior to the execution of the deed on March 20, 1943.' (Appellants evidently meant to use the word 'subsequent' rather than 'anterior' for the reason that the insanity judgment was subsequent to the execution of the deed sought to be cancelled by some three years. Both parties, however, to this appeal, in their briefs, have treated 'anterior' as meaning 'subsequent', and we have so treated it in this opinion.)

The deed from appellee to appellant Daisy Smith was executed in Tyler, Texas, on March 20, 1943. At the time of its execution appellee was on furlough from the United States Navy. The record shows that shortly before Christmas, 1942, appellee joined the United States Navy, was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, where he remained until the early part of March, 1943, and was transferred from there to Gulfport, Mississippi. Appellee received a furlough at Gulfport and returned to Tyler, Texas. During his stay in Tyler he spent a portion of his time in the home of appellants, where he had resided for some years prior to joining the Navy. March 20, 1943, the day the deed in question was executed by appellee, was either the day, or the day before, he returned to his post at Gulfport, Mississippi. Appellee reached Gulfport on or about the 23rd day of March, 1943, and an examination by the Navy Medical Department March 25th reflected that he was suffering from dementia praecox. On March 26th he was transferred to United States Naval Hospital, Pensacola, Florida, where another examination confirmed the diagnosis. On April 1, 1943, appellee was transferred from the Naval Hospital in Pensacola to the Naval Hospital at Bethesda, Maryland, and another examination revealed that he was still suffering from dementia praecox and was unfit for service. Appellee was transferred from Bethesda to St. Elizabeth Hospital on June 17, 1943, and was admitted to Veterans Hospital at Waco November 11, 1944. The record is without dispute that sometime in 1942, appellee received 'shock treatment' at the John Sealy Hospital at Galveston. On April 21, 1948, after appellee had been adjudged insane on April 22, 1946, by the County Court of Smith County, and while confined in Veterans Hospital at Waco, he wrote the following letter to Mr. and Mrs. Smith:

'Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith:

'Your visit being so short there are lots of things I did not get to tell you. My trial for insanity. A child would understand Frank's reason for the trial. To try to fix it so that he would inherit a part of my farm at my death. He lied to me after the trial and said property had nothing to do with the trial. He wanted the jury to say that I was insane when I signed the paper I gave you. During his testimony while on the stand he told several lies. He said I was in the hospital at Galveston four to six weeks. As you know, I was there only two weeks. Those lies were of course to influence the jury. He also lied about what I was worth. He said only about ten thousand dollars. When I sold my interest in the Riviere Bottling & Mfg. Co. Frank made the statement himself that the two hundred ($200.00) that I was to receive per month was equivalent to an investment of forty to fifty thousand dollars. If I did not still own it at the trial what had become of my interest. Maybe it had already been taken care of as they would call it. My being taken out of the service was also a plan as I have told you before.

'As ever Paul.'

The above letter was introduced in evidence by appellants over the objection of appellee 'that it was the act of an insane person at this particular time under a proper adjudication of insanity as of the date of the instrument, April 21, 1948; therefore it would not be competent testimony.'

Based upon this letter, introduced by appellants, the trial court permitted the introduction of the judgment and jury verdict in the lunacy hearing against him of April 22, 1946, by appellee over the objection of appellants that the lunacy judgment was anterior (subsequent) to the incident at issue (execution and delivery of the deed) and is immaterial and irrelevant. In our opinion this letter in the light of the record and the appellee's objection thereto should not have been admitted in evidence. Unquestionably it was the act of an insane person so adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction. The letter was not admissible either for or against appellee without proof before the trial court with respect to the mental competency of the appellee at the time he wrote the letter. It is undisputed in this record that at the time appellee wrote the letter he was in the Veterans Hospital in Waco by force of a judgment of insanity by the County Court of Smith County. Herndon v. Vick, 18 Tex.Civ.App. 583, 45 S.W. 852, West Lumber Co. v. Henderson, Tex.Civ.App., 238 S.W. 710; Id., Tex.Com.App., 252 S.W. 1044; National Surety Co. v. Landers, Tex.Civ.App., 235 S.W. 275; Safety Casualty Co. v. Walls, Tex.Civ.App., 117 S.W.2d 879. We recognize the rule announced in Uecker v. Zuercher, 54 Tex.Civ.App. 289, 118 S.W. 149 (writ refused); Tex.Civ.App., Joy v. Joy, 156 S.W.2d 547; Rowan v. Hodges, Tex.Civ.App., 175 S.W. 847. But, in our opinion, the letter having been wrongfully admitted in evidence, at the instance of appellants, the decretal part of the judgment of the trial court became admissible on behalf of appellee to establish his status as an insane person at the time he wrote the letter. But certainly the contents of that judgment, especially the jury verdict contained therein, was not admissible as bearing on the condition of appellee on the prior date when he executed the deed in question. The jury's answer in the insanity hearing to question 4, which was copied in the insanity judgment, and admitted in evidence before the jury, was that appellee's present attack of insanity (April, 1946) had lasted about three years. This would fix the beginning of appellee's attack of insanity from which he was suffering as having begun on or about the date he executed the deed in controversy, and would throw the full weight of the jury finding in the insanity case against appellants' contention that appellee was sane when he executed and delivered the deed to them. The admission of the insanity judgment, in our opinion, should have been limited to the fact that it adjudicated appellee insane in 1946....

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17 cases
  • Porter v. State, 57553
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • 28 d3 Março d3 1979
    ...in evidence, are subject to the same rules of evidence respecting relevancy, competency, or materiality as any other evidence. Smith v. Riviere, 248 S.W.2d 526 (Tex.Civ.App. Texarkana 1951, no writ). Therefore, even though the official public records or certified copies thereof are admissib......
  • Porter v. State, 68336
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • 21 d3 Outubro d3 1981
    ...admissible under Art. 3737e, supra, statements appearing on tape are themselves hearsay and not admissible. See Smith v. Riviere, 248 S.W.2d 526 (Tex.Civ.App.-Texarkana 1951), no writ history. However, we initially note that the appellant's objection to the admission of the tape was based u......
  • Saunders v. Saunders, B14-82-080CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 14 d4 Abril d4 1983
    ...the well-settled principle of the common law of the inadmissibility of hearsay evidence based on further hearsay evidence." Smith v. Riviere, 248 S.W.2d 526, 530 (Tex.Civ.App.--Texarkana 1951, no writ). The reach of the statutory exception has been clearly ... even though the official publi......
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