Brief Fact Summary.
Plaintiff Donald Odorizzi sought to rescind his written resignation as a school teacher on the grounds that it was made under duress, menace, fraud, mistake, and undue influence. Plaintiff, after being arrested on criminal charges of homosexuality, alleges that we was coerced into resigning by his school principle and district superintendent.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A party may rescind an agreement by showing such agreement was the result of undue influence.
On June 11, 1964, Plaintiff was arrested and charged on the basis criminal homosexual activity. On June 13, Plaintiff submitted his resignation as a school teacher. Plaintiff alleged that he was coerced to submit a resignation by the principal of his school and the district superintendent after both individuals visited Plaintiff at his home following Plaintiff’s arrest. Plaintiff alleged that while visiting his home, the principal and district superintendent threatened to suspend, publicly humiliate, and embarrass Plaintiff unless Plaintiff resigned, and that they told Plaintiff he had no time to speak with an attorney and that his chances of ever teaching again would be ruined if he did not resign. Plaintiff alleged that he was under severe mental and emotional pain, and that at the time he submitted his resignation he had been awake for over forty hours as a result of being arrested, questioned and detained by state police. Plaintiff’s charges were subsequently dropped and he then sought to rescind his resignation. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint on demurrer.
Whether Plaintiff had a cause of action to rescind the agreement based on duress, fraud (actual and constructive), mistake, or undue influence.
The Court upheld the Trial Court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complain on all grounds except for undue influence.
· Duress: In order to rescind an agreement under a claim of duress, the party must be subject to an unlawful threat or action. The Court stated that Plaintiff was under no such threat because the school officials merely threatened to take legal action, which was their duty to do as school officials.
· Fraud: In order to rescind an agreement on the basis of fraud, a party must show misrepresentation, knowledge of falsity, intent to induce reliance, justifiable reliance, and resulting damages. The court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint on these grounds because it failed to allege facts showing any of the elements of fraud other than misrepresentation. The Court further dismissed Plaintiff’s claim for constructive fraud Plaintiff failed to show the existence of a confidential relationship, and a mere employer-employee relationship, without more, fails to meet that burden.
· Mistake: The Court dismissed this claim because no evidence was introduced showing that Plaintiff’s resignation had been submitted on the basis of any mistake of fact or mistake of law, as is required for such a claim.
Undue influence: The Court defined undue influence as “taking advantage of another’s weakness of mind; or taking grossly oppressive and unfair advantage of another’s necessities or distress.” The Court held that, like the case at hand, undue influence usually involves someone in a dominant position taking advantage of someone in a servient position. The Court held that Plaintiff had pleaded sufficient facts to show that Defendants had placed excessive pressure on Plaintiff at a time when Plaintiff was vulnerable and susceptible to over persuasion.
A party may rescind an agreement if it can be shown that such agreement was not entered into under free will, but was a the product of excessive pressure being put on one who was at the time to be vulnerable and physically and/or emotionally weak.