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Wright v. Doe d. Tatham

Court of Exchequer Chamber
7Ad. & E. 313, 112 Eng. Rep. 488 (Ex. Ch. 1837), 5 Clark & Finelly 670 (1838)



John Marsden died with a will leaving valuable real property to George Wright (defendant), his servant. Sandford Tatham, as Marsden’s sole heir at law, commenced a lawsuit seeking to have the will set aside as fraudulently procured by Wright. Tatham asserted that Marsden had never been competent to handle his own affairs because he lacked the mental development and understanding of an adult, instead behaving as though he was a child. Tatham also asserted that Wright treated Marsden disrespectfully and exercised control over Marsden. Conversely, Wright asserted that Marsden, although possessing below average intelligence, was capable of handling his own affairs. Wright offered as evidence of Marsden’s competency three letters written to Marsden in which the writer addressed Marsden respectfully and as a rational and competent adult. All of the letters’ authors were deceased by the time of the trial. After the majority of justices below agreed that the letters should be excluded from evidence, the case was heard in the Court of Exchequer Chamber.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Parke, J.)

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