HORACE PAUL ELEDGE V. JERRY PAUL ELEDGE - Articles

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Posted by: Amelia Ferrell Knisely on May 27, 2016

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Mark T. Freeman, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jerry Paul Eledge.

Attorneys 2:

Robert D. Massey, Pulaski, Tennessee, for the appellee, Horace Paul Eledge.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

This is an action by Father to rescind a quitclaim deed on the ground the deed was procured by Son's fraud or constructive fraud. Father, believing his property might be subject to the claims of creditors, sought advice from Son on how to preserve his real property for the benefit of his two children and grandchildren. Son engaged an attorney to prepare a quitclaim deed reserving a life estate for Father and conveying the remainder interest in the property to Father's two children, Son and Daughter. Father executed the deed without reading it. Two years later, after realizing he only held a life estate, Father asked both children to re-convey the property. Daughter complied, but when Son refused, Father commenced this action against Son. Following a bench trial, the court held that rescission of the deed was warranted because the deed was procured by Son's fraud or constructive fraud given that “[Father] was under the domination and control of his son at the time the deed was signed.” Fraud can be established by proof of nondisclosure or concealment of a known material fact in situations where a party has a duty to disclose that fact. Justice v. Anderson County, 955 S.W.2d 613, 616 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1997). Similarly, constructive fraud is a breach of a legal or equitable duty which is deemed fraudulent because of its tendency to deceive others by, inter alia, violating a private confidence. Kincaid v. SouthTrust Bank, 221 S.W.3d 32, 39 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006). The general rule is that a party to a transaction has no duty to disclose material facts to the other. Homestead Grp., LLC v. Bank of Tenn., 307 S.W.3d 746, 751-52 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2009). However, such a duty may arise when there is a confidential relationship between the parties. Benton v. Snyder, 825 S.W.2d 409, 414 (Tenn. 1992). “The normal relationship between a mentally competent parent and an adult child is not per se a confidential relationship.” Kelly v. Allen, 558 S.W.2d 845, 848 (Tenn. 1977). In certain circumstances, however, a duty may arise out of a “family relationship” when there is proof of “dominion and control” sufficient to establish the existence of a confidential relationship. See Matlock v. Simpson, 902 S.W.2d 384, 385-86 (Tenn. 1995). We have determined that the evidence preponderates against the finding that Father was under the dominion and control of Son. The facts of this case reveal that Father was in good physical and mental health, lived separately from Son, and was not dependent on Son or ?? anyone else for his daily needs. Although Father trusted Son completely, relied on Son for financial advice, and could be persuaded by Son?s ardent opinions, Son did not have control over Father or Father's finances. To the contrary, Father described situations in which he independently conducted business and made his own decisions, some of which were contrary to Son's wishes. Having determined that the evidence preponderates against the finding that Father was under the domination and control of Son at the time the deed was signed, we find no basis upon which to conclude that Son owed an affirmative duty to disclose all material facts relevant to the transaction. Because Son did not owe an affirmative duty to disclose all material facts relevant to the transaction, Father's claim that Son procured the deed by fraud or constructive fraud cannot be sustained. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.