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Turner v. Guy

Massachusetts Court of Appeals
311 N.E.2d 921 (1974)


Telly Turner (plaintiff) was the owner of three pieces of rental property. Nathanial Guy (defendant) was a real estate agent. Turner approached Guy and told him that she wanted to sell the three properties as quickly as she could. Guy told Turner that the properties were likely worth five times their rental income, or about $17,500. Turner and Guy then entered into a written real-estate-agency contract under which Guy promised to look for a buyer at $17,500, and Turner promised to pay Guy a six percent sales commission. After Guy looked at the properties, however, he offered to buy them for $16,000. Turner and Guy entered into a contract under which Guy paid Turner $500 to secure his right to purchase the properties for $16,000 at a set future time. Before that time arrived, however, Turner learned new information: four years earlier, an inheritance-tax appraisal had valued the properties at $25,000. Then Turner hired an attorney and had the properties appraised. That appraisal came in at $29,500. At that point, Turner’s attorney talked to Guy and proposed returning the $500 in exchange for Guy releasing Turner from the agreement. Guy refused and threatened to sue if Turner did not go through with the sale. Accordingly, Turner sold the properties to Guy for $16,000. Guy then brought the properties up to code and listed them for sale at $33,000. Turner sued Guy in equity, seeking rescission of the sales contract. The trial court ruled that Guy had breached the fiduciary duty he owed Turner as her real estate agent. The court also ruled, however, that Turner’s suit was too late and barred by laches because Guy had already renovated the properties believing that Turner was not going to challenge his ownership. Consequently, the court dismissed Turner’s case. Turner appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Hale, C.J.)

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