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Francois v. Francois

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
599 F.2d 1286 (1979)


Facts

Victor Francois (Victor) (plaintiff) married A. Jane Francois (Jane) (defendant) in May 1971. At the time, Victor was relatively well off, owning a rental property, shares in several family businesses, a portfolio of public stock, and savings accounts. Jane had two minor children from a previous relationship and no assets of her own. Early in their marriage, upon pressure applied by Jane, Victor (1) deposited money for her use in a joint account, (2) bought an expensive house in both of their names, (3) adopted her children, (4) conveyed to her his entire interest in the rental property and a substantial portion of his interest in the family businesses, (5) gave her power of attorney over his public stock, and (6) bought her a boat. After an argument in the fall of 1974, Jane retained a divorce attorney, Harold Monson, without Victor’s knowledge. They presented Victor with a “Property Settlement and Separation Agreement,” suggesting that the marriage would be terminated unless Victor signed it. The agreement essentially gave all of Victor’s remaining assets to Jane and paid her alimony as well. Monson called in an attorney working in the same office building to represent Victor. Such attorney’s name had already been inserted into the agreement in such capacity. After reading the agreement, the attorney told Victor it was “financial suicide” and that the attorney could not represent him if Victor insisted on signing. Nevertheless, Victor signed the agreement. The couple continued to live together for a year, during which time Jane sold or otherwise attempted to transfer the bulk of the assets that Victor had conveyed to her. She then left him. Victor sued her for rescission of the agreement. After a nonjury trial, the district court declared the agreement void on several grounds, including undue influence. Jane appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Rosenn, J.)

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