WPI 301.11 Enforceability—Undue Influence
6A WAPRAC WPI 301.11Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 301.11 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
April 2022 Update
Part XIII. Contracts
Chapter 301. Contracts—Formation, Interpretation, and Enforceability
WPI 301.11 Enforceability—Undue Influence
A party may rescind a contract on the ground of undue influence if that party proves, by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, that the party was unfairly persuaded to enter the contract by a person who [either] dominated [or had a confidential relationship with] the party.
[A person is in a confidential relationship with a party when the party is justified in assuming that the person would not act against the party's welfare. Such relationships includeand .]
(Fill in these blanks with the most pertinent or analogous relationship from the Comment below.)
Unfair persuasion is any means that would seriously impair the free and competent exercise of the party's judgment. In determining whether the persuasion was unfair, you may take into account such factors as the unfairness of the contract, if any, the availability of independent advice, and the experience or susceptibility of the party persuaded.
NOTE ON USE
Use this instruction when a party seeks to avoid enforcement of a contract on the basis of undue influence by the other party to the contract.
Use the bracketed portions relating to a confidential relationship when that is the basis for the claim. For examples of confidential relationships, e.g., parent and child, physician and patient, see the Comment below. If the undue influence is exercised by a third party, see the Comment below and modify the instruction accordingly. If an issue of ratification by subsequent conduct is raised, the instruction should be modified accordingly. See the Comment to WPI 301.10 (Enforceability—Duress).
Use this instruction with the second paragraph of WPI 160.03 (Fraud—Burden of Proof—Combined with Preponderance of Evidence).
Background. This instruction is based primarily on the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 177 (1981), which provides:
- (1) Undue influence is unfair persuasion of a party who is under the domination of the person exercising the persuasion or who by virtue of the relation between them is justified in assuming that that person will not act in a manner inconsistent with his welfare.
- (2) If a party's manifestation of assent is induced by undue influence by the other party, the contract is voidable by the victim.
- (3) If a party's manifestation of assent is induced by one who is not a party to the transaction, the contract is voidable by the victim unless the other party to the transaction in good faith and without reason to know of the undue influence either gives value or relies materially on the transaction.
Section 177 is cited and relied upon in In re Estate of Jones, 170 Wn.App. 594, 606–07, 287 P.3d 610 (2012), and Gerimonte v. Case, 42 Wn.App. 611, 614, 712 P.2d 876 (1986).
Third parties. If the party exercising the undue influence was not a party to the contract, application of this section will require modification of the instruction to reflect the additional requirements of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts section 177(3).
Confidential relationships. Application of undue influence principles first depends upon establishing a relationship in which the party seeking to block enforcement of the contract was either under the domination of another, or justifiably assumed that another would not act inconsistently with the party's welfare. According to comment (a) of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts section 177, relationships that “often fall within the rule” include parent and child, husband and wife, clergyman and parishioner, and physician and patient. “In each case it is a question of fact whether the relation is such as to give undue weight to the other's attempts at persuasion.” Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 177 cmt. a (1981).
A “confidential relationship” has also been described as including those that historically have been considered fiduciary, such as trustee and beneficiary, principal and agent, partner and partner, attorney and client, as well as any relationship in which one party has “gained the confidence of the other and purports to act or advise with the other's interest in mind.” McCutcheon v. Brownfield, 2 Wn.App. 348, 356–57, 467 P.2d 868 (1970).
Unfair persuasion. According to the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 177 cmt. b, when the required domination or relationship is present:
[the] degree of persuasion that is unfair depends on a variety of circumstances. The ultimate question is whether the result was produced by means that seriously impaired the free and competent exercise of judgment. Such factors as the unfairness of the resulting bargain, the unavailability of independent advice, and the susceptibility of the person persuaded are circumstances to be taken into account …, but they are not in themselves controlling.
Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 177 cmt. b (1981)
Burden of proof. A number of cases hold that undue influence must be proved by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. See e.g., Tecklenburg v. Wash. Gas & Elec. Co., 40 Wn.2d 141, 143, 241 P.2d 1172 (1952); In re Estate of Jones, 170 Wn.App. at 603; Endicott v. Saul, 142 Wn.App. 899, 176 P.3d 560 (2008). On the other hand, in deciding motions for summary judgment, although courts “must view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden,” Woody v. Stapp, 146 Wn.App. 16, 22, 189 P.3d 807 (2008), it has been noted that the “existence of undue influence between persons in a confidential relationship is more readily inferred.” Gerimonte, 42 Wn.App. at 616 (citing Estate of Randmel v. Pounds, 38 Wn.App. 401, 685 P.2d 638 (1984) (standard not applicable to summary judgment); McCutcheon v. Brownfield, 2 Wn.App. 348, 357, 467 P.2d 868 (1970) (inference)).
[Current as of June 2021.]
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