Donna R. Holt v. Lloyd W. Martino (fraud)

Union County Court of Common Pleas; Third Appellate District

Palmer convinces court to rescind a real estate contract that would have forced a 69-year-old widow to sell her 478.9-acre farm for less than half the contract price she believed she would receive.

Donna Holt, a 69-year-old widow thought she agreed to sell her 478.9-acre farm for $1,400 per acre, or $670,530.15, to Lloyd and June Martino, acquaintances she knew for some time. The Martinos claimed they agreed to purchase the property for its present value of $1,400 per acre payable over 27 years without interest. The real estate contract listed a price of $240,248.49, noting that the buyers agreed to execute a mortgage note and mortgage deed for $240,248.49 with interest of 7.39 percent per annum, which computes to $607 per acre. The buyers could prepay the remaining balance without penalty. When Holt realized her "mistake" she sought to have the contract rescinded due to the parties' mutual mistake. A common pleas court ruled in her favor. The Martinos appealed the judgment, arguing that there was no mistaken intention and the contract language was inserted because Holt wanted to avoid IRS complications. They also argued that if there was a mutual mistake, the trial court should have reformed the contract instead of rescinding it. Evidence presented by Palmer proved that she was unsophisticated in real estate transactions and relied upon the Martinos to treat her fairly. The appeals court ruled in her favor and upheld rescission of the contract, allowing her to keep her family farm.