Odorizzi v. Bloomfield School Dist.
California District Court of Appeal, 1966.
246 Cal.App.2d 123, 54 Cal.Rptr. 533.
Facts: The plaintiff was under contract as a teacher. He was arrested, and the next day he allegedly was pressured by his superiors to sign and deliver his resignation. He was cleared of the criminal charges, and then he sought to be reinstated by the school district. They refused, so he sued to rescind his resignation. He claimed that his resignation should not be enforced because, among other things, he signed it under the “undue influence” of his superiors. The defendants demurred to his complaint, and the court sustained the demurrer and dismissed the complaint. The plaintiff appealed.
Issue: Can the contract be rescinded on the basis that the plaintiff was not competent to contract due to undue influence?
Rule: Undue influence consists of (1) undue susceptibility of the vulnerable person and (2) excessive pressure by the dominant person.
Analysis: The court need only find that the plaintiff adequately pleaded a case for rescission on the basis of undue influence such that the demurrer should not have been sustained. The court finds that in the first place, the plaintiff adequately pleaded his mental and emotional weakness at the time of signing the resignation due to his recent arrest and lack of sleep.
On the other hand, in considering excessive pressure, the court suggests a factor test, where the factors include, among other things: discussion of the contract at an unusual or inappropriate time or place, more persuaders than persuaded people, the absence of an attorney and the encouragement not to seek one out. All of these factors are present, so the court is willing to let the complaint proceed.
Conclusion: The trial court is reversed.