Taylor v. Godsey

Decision Date21 April 1978
PartiesLucy E. TAYLOR and Newman O. Taylor v. Leonard GODSEY, etc., et al. 77-275.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

James L. Beech, Jr., of Tweedy, Jackson & Beech, Jasper, for appellants.

Walter Joe James, Jr., of James, Lowe & McNamee, Haleyville, for appellees.


Appellants, Newman O. Taylor and his wife, Lucy C. Taylor, appeal from a judgment setting aside a deed made to them by Ellafair Hamby, Mrs. Taylor's sister. We reverse and remand.

On August 1, 1972, Ellafair Hamby executed a warranty deed to appellants conveying a 55-acre home place. On that same date, she executed a will devising an 80-acre tract of land to Mrs. Trannie Donaldson, a sister to Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Hamby. (There is testimony to the effect that Mrs. Hamby wished to thus divide her lands between her only two sisters.) The two instruments were executed and acknowledged in the office of Mrs. Hamby's attorney. On September 16, 1972, a corrective deed was executed to change the middle initial of Mrs. Taylor from "E" to "C." Once again, the deed was acknowledged. There was testimony to the effect that it was Mrs. Hamby herself who noticed the error. On September 10, 1973, the deed was again corrected and acknowledged to add some property acquired by adverse possession.

Two years later, on September 15, 1975, Ellafair Hamby brought suit against appellants, seeking to have the deeds set aside. The case was heard ore tenus on July 22, 1976, and taken under advisement. While the case was under consideration, Mrs. Hamby died, and Leonard J. Godsey and Sidney J. Donaldson, co-executors of her estate, were substituted as parties plaintiff. Subsequently, on May 16, 1977, the trial court entered its order, cancelling the three deeds without making any express findings. After motion for new trial was overruled, this appeal ensued.

At trial Mrs. Hamby advanced three theories to support cancellation: (1) lack of consideration; (2) undue influence; and (3) fraud. We shall treat these theories seriatim.

As to Mrs. Hamby's initial theory, lack of consideration for the deeds, it is well settled that a deed is valid and operative between the parties and their privies, whether it is founded upon a consideration or not. Ingram v. Horn, 294 Ala. 353, 317 So.2d 485 (1975). Thus, that theory is without merit.

As to the second theory advanced at trial, undue influence, it is unsupported by the evidence.

"It is well established that what constitutes undue influence to procure a deed depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Orton v. Gay, 285 Ala. 270, 231 So.2d 305 (1970). However, undue influence can generally be defined as influence which dominates the grantor's will and coerces it to serve the will of another. Wyatt v. Riley, 292 Ala. 277, 293 So.2d 288 (1974).

"When the parties stand in a confidential relationship and the evidence tends to show that the beneficiary is the dominant party, the law raises a presumption of undue influence and places on the beneficiary the burden to repel the presumption when the transaction is assailed. Wolfe v. Thompson, 285 Ala. 745, 235 So.2d 878 (1970) . . .

"When no presumption is raised, the burden to prove undue influence is on the one seeking to set aside the deed. Wyatt."

Terry v. Terry, 336 So.2d 159 (Ala.1976).

The fact of the mere relationship alone existing between sisters does not of itself create a confidential relationship. Cf. Abrams v. Abrams, 225 Ala. 622, 144 So. 828 (1932). Thus, the burden of proof was upon the grantor, Mrs. Hamby, to prove undue influence.

The evidence adduced at trial simply fails to meet that burden. We have carefully read all the pertinent testimony on the issue. The testimony by Mrs. Hamby is to the effect that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Taylor ever asked her for the property. While it was shown that Mrs. Hamby was taking a number of medicines for various maladies at the time the deeds were made, testimony by her attorney makes it clear that she seemed alert and healthy at the time the deeds were signed. In fact, Mrs. Hamby was sufficiently alert to suggest on two separate occasions that the deeds needed corrections made. Moreover, Mrs. Hamby herself testified that her relationship with the Taylors was somewhat strained, thereby tending to negate the notion that she could...

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13 cases
  • Estate of Whitt v. C.I.R.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • February 4, 1985
    ...the parties to the deed even though no consideration is paid. Russell v. Russell, 361 So.2d 1053, 1054 (Ala.1978); Taylor v. Godsey, 357 So.2d 979, 980 (Ala.1978). However, Alabama law also requires that, in order for an inter vivos gift to be complete, the donor must clearly intend to reli......
  • Paddock, Smith & Aydlotte v. WAAY Television
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • February 17, 1982
    ...where, as here, the facts are undisputed. Hendrix, Mohr & Yardley, Inc. v. City of Daphne, 359 So.2d 792 (Ala.1978); Taylor v. Godsey, 357 So.2d 979 (Ala.1978). When the facts are undisputed, the appellate court must determine whether the trial court misapplied the law to the undisputed fac......
  • Craig v. Javine
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • May 18, 1983
    ...the trial court makes no findings of fact, the ore tenus rule does not apply. Stiles v. Brown, 380 So.2d 792 (Ala.1980); Taylor v. Godsey, 357 So.2d 979 (Ala.1978); De Moville v. Merchants & Farmers Bank, 233 Ala. 204, 170 So. 756 Our review of the record, however, reveals a conflict in the......
  • Jackson v. Reed
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • September 30, 1983
    ...other things being proper, a deed cannot be set aside because of inadequate consideration or for no consideration at all. Taylor v. Godsey, 357 So.2d 979 (Ala.1978); Ingram v. Horn, 294 Ala. 353, 317 So.2d 485 (1975). Here, not only was there testimony that Reed received the amount of money......
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