New Mexico Supreme Court orders trial in case alleging undue influence in transfer of real estate
State Supreme Court orders trial in real estate dispute in which daughter of elderly man alleges 1,900-acre property in Socorro County was transferred to her brother due to undue influence over their father. Post an archive photo
SANTA FE – The New Mexico Supreme Court (NMSC) has ordered a lawsuit in a real estate dispute in which the daughter of an elderly man alleges that the 1,900-acre property in Socorro County was transferred to her brother in because of his undue influence on their father.
In a unanimous opinion, the Court concluded that where a party alleges that an assignment was effected through undue influence, the legal presumption that “a properly executed assignment is valid”, in and of itself, is not sufficient to obtain a summary judgment dismissing this claim.
In 2015, Alvino Contreras appears to have transferred title to some of his property to his son, Bobby Contreas. Alvino’s daughter, Linda Contreras Ridlington, has filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the transfers of ownership, alleging that the son obtained them by exercising undue influence over their father. The district court ruled in favor of the son based on the presumption that the acts were valid regardless of the merits of the daughter’s abuse of influence claim. The judges overturned a split decision of the Court of Appeals that upheld the Socorro County District Court.
In an opinion of Judge David K. Thomson, the Court concluded that the son had failed to meet the burden of proof required for summary judgment by simply producing deeds which met the legal requirements for assigning property to him.
“In addition to the girl who raised allegations of duress and coercion in her complaint, Son admitted that he had prepared the acts himself, that the means of transport were ‘given’ to him without consideration, and that he and his father “had a close and open relationship all their lives and lived next to each other.” The district court also registered the fact that the father had been declared legally incapable about a year after the transmission of the documents, ”the court wrote. “All of these facts directly involve the elements of undue influence. Therefore, in order to prevail over summary judgment, Son was responsible for responding to the allegations of abuse of influence.
The Court concluded that “the presumption of validity of the acts in itself did not preclude Daughter’s claims of undue influence”.