Cite as A162671
Filed May 3, 2022, First District, Div. Five
By Michelle Barnett Batista
Aaron, Riechert, Carpol & Riffle, APC
Headnote: Rescission – Unilateral Mistake
Summary: Party that fails to read agreement and consult with their attorney prior to signing is not entitled to rescind agreement based on unilateral mistake of fact as to the contents.
Brandy filed a petition for appointment as personal representative of her late husband’s estate. The trial court denied her petition based on a premarital agreement that waived Brandy’s interests in her husband’s estate. In a prior appeal, the court held that Brandy was entitled to introduce extrinsic evidence in support of her claim that she and her late husband mistakenly believed the agreement would apply only in the event of divorce. On remand, Brandy testified that she instructed her attorney to remove language making the agreement applicable on death and overheard her husband instruct his attorney to do the same. The trial court found that Brandy’s husband knew the agreement applied in the event of death and that Brandy’s unilateral mistake did not justify rescission because Brandy failed to read the final agreement or consult with her attorney prior to signing. Brandy appealed.
The appellate court affirmed. Although misinterpretation of a contract is a mistake of law, the trial court properly analyzed the rescission claim as being based on a unilateral mistake of fact as to the content of the agreement. To obtain rescission of a contract based on unilateral mistake of fact, the mistaken party must not bear the risk of the mistake. By failing to read the revised agreement and consult with her attorney, Brandy bore the risk of her mistake and was not entitled to rescission. In addition, any error by the trial court in failing to make findings regarding voluntariness required by Family Code section 1615 was not prejudicial because Brandy did not show reasonable probability the court would have failed to make the necessary findings.