It is tempting to dismiss the Massachusetts Appeals Court’s Shea v. Cameron as a confection of divorcing people behaving badly, and a tale of narcissistic comeuppance. But, the case actually has two important messages in it, for which we are grateful.
First, obviously, is that “not all human actions…have an avenue for legal recourse, no matter how much anger, sorrow, or anxiety they cause.” Those words would be well-posted over the courthouse door.
But second, the court underscored the gravity of the allegation “undue influence”, the key to many efforts to avoid enforcement of pre-marital and divorce agreements specifically, and to eschew responsibility for one’s own actions, more generally. The court aptly cited SJC precedent, in stating that:
…a plaintiff must establish that the defendant overcame the will of the grantor …. [by]… some form of compulsion which coerces a person into doing something the person does not want to do.
And, in connection with Ms. Shea:
…the undisputed evidence shows that [she] was in full command of her personal affairs and was neither ill, dependent nor enfeebled at the time of the transfer of real or personal property to Cameron.
Undue influence is a high bar, as well it should be.