SW Legal studies in Business

Relief for Unilateral Mistake in Contract Allowed Only in Certain Instances
Description Appeals court refused to allow a divorce agreement to be changed after both parties testified in court that they agreed to the terms of the agreement. The unilateral mistake was not one that the other party knew about, nor was it so large as to be unconscionable, so the agreement stands.
Topic Contracts
Key Words Unilateral Mistake; Relief; Unconscionable
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Patricia and Billy Welkener appeared in court to "prove up" their divorce settlement. One term of the agreement was that Patricia would be awarded $1,099 per month from Billy's retirement account. Hearing both parties testify that they agreed to the settlement, the judge granted the divorce. Subsequently, Patricia asked the court to amend the agreement to give her 32.7 percent of Billy's retirement account, rather than a fixed sum, so that she could benefit from any future increase in the monthly retirement benefit. She filed the motion on the grounds of a unilateral mistake; the trial court denied her motion. Patricia appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. A unilateral mistake by a party to an agreement ordinarily will not constitute grounds for relief when the mistake was not known to the other party. "Generally, to be entitled to the relief, the party must show that : 1) the mistake is of so great a consequence that to enforce the contract as made would be unconscionable; 2) the mistake relates to a material feature of the contract; 3) the mistake must have been made regardless of the exercise of ordinary care; 4) the parties can be placed in status quo in the equity sense., i.e., recission must not result in prejudice to the other party except for the loss of his bargain. The dollar value of the mistake here was not so large as to be unconscionable. Patricia had reviewed the agreement before appearing in court and was aware of its terms; so relief will not be granted.

Citation Welkener v. Welkener, S.W.2d (2001 WL 878250, Ct. App., Tx., 2001)

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