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Stare v. Tate

California Court of Appeal
21 Cal. App. 3d 432, 98 Cal. Rptr. 264 (1971)


Facts

Joan (plaintiff) and Tim Tate (defendant) were getting divorced and negotiating their individual rights to community property. The couple disputed the value of various community property, including real property known as the Holt property. Joan’s valuation of the Holt property was higher than Tim’s. Joan’s attorney wrote a property distribution offer to Tim, with what was supposed to be Joan’s desired valuation of the Holt property. However, the attorney’s math in the offer was incorrect, resulting in a calculated property value $100,000 less than Joan’s actual valuation. Dividing this valuation in half resulted in Joan’s share of the actual value decreasing by $50,000. Tim’s accountant and attorney discovered the error but did not disclose it, and in fact took steps to hide the mistake in their counteroffer. After the couple signed the agreement, the divorce was finalized. Soon after, Tim, in an apparent attempt to gloat, informed Joan of the mathematical error. Joan sued Tim for reformation of the contract based on her attorney’s mistake. The trial court ruled in favor of Tim, finding that, despite the mistake, the distribution of assets was fair. Joan appealed. On appeal, Tim argued that he never would have agreed to Joan’s desired valuation had the attorney’s math been correct.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kaus, J.)

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