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THOMAS v. BYRD et al.
Action for damages. Muscogee Superior Court. Before Judge Davis.
FELTON, Chief Judge.
The plaintiff's responsive pleadings to the defendants' pleas of a release do not allege facts sufficient to cancel and set aside the release, and the court properly entered judgments for the defendants.
Jeanette Catrett Thomas brought an action against Martha E. Byrd and Anita L. Spears, jointly and severally, for damages for personal injuries allegedly resulting from a collision between defendant Spears' automobile, in which the plaintiff was a passenger, and defendant Byrd's automobile, which collision is alleged to have been caused by both defendants' negligence.
Both defendants filed a plea of release, attaching thereto a copy of a release taken by an agent of State Farm Mutual Auto. Insurance Company, defendants' insurer, and signed by the plaintiff and her husband. The plaintiff stipulated the endorsements of her husband and herself and the receipt of the consideration of $30.00 recited in the release, $20.00 of which was paid to a doctor for medical expenses incurred as a result of the collision.
In compliance with the court's pretrial order, the plaintiff filed responsive pleadings to the pleas of release, in which she alleged substantially as follows: That she had never knowingly executed any legal and valid release of liability for her personal injuries; that the purported release was procured by the fraud and deception of the defendants' insurer's adjuster, a mature, experienced, middle-aged man, who assured the plaintiff that he was thoroughly familiar with the law and such practices and that she could and should rely on his advice in the matter; that at the time of the execution of the release, the plaintiff was only 18 years of age, had no previous experience in such matters, had only an eighth grade education, was pregnant and was under great anxiety and concern as to possible damage done her unborn child in the collision; that the adjuster represented to the plaintiff that the release was simply for his company file, that people never did read it, that the plaintiff need not read it, that she should sign it, that it would not affect her rights if it turned out that she had been hurt in the wreck and that it would have no legal effect on any case she might have under the law, which he assured her she did not; that the plaintiff did not have the benefit of counsel when signing it, but relied wholly on the agents' representations; that after signing the paper she incurred medical expenses for an injury either caused or aggravated by the collision; that upon learning the true facts she immediately repudiated the purported settlement and tendered the $10.00 which she had already received thereunder to the agent, who refused to accept it.
The sole issue presented by this appeal is whether or not the plaintiff in error's responsive pleadings alleged facts which would raise the issue of whether or not there were legal grounds for rescinding the release.
The plaintiff was under no legal disability because of her minority at the time of her execution of the release. ". . . [A] married person 18 years of age or older may maintain an action and contract to settle claims in his own name." Code Ann. 3-115. Her responsive pleading shows that she was both married and 18 years of age when she signed the release.
No person can claim misrepresentation as to the nature or content of a contract he signs when he could have read it himself but did not, unless some act be shown on the part of the defendant, or any person for him, which legally prevented him from reading or having read to him the contents of such instrument. Duncan v. Crisp, 68 Ga. App. 498 (23 SE2d 515); Swofford v. Glaze, 207 Ga. 532 (63 SE2d 342); Lewd v. Foy, 189 Ga. 596, 598 (6 SE2d 788) and cit. The general rule is well settled that fraud cannot be predicated upon misrepresentations of law or misrepresentations as to matters of law. Everyone is presumed to know the law and therefore can not in legal contemplation be deceived by erroneous statements of law, and such representations are ordinarily regarded as mere expressions of opinion, and this is especially so where there is no confidential relationship between the parties. Swofford v. Glaze, supra; Williams v. Dougherty County, 101 Ga. App. 193, 196 (113 SE2d 168) and cit.
In the instant case, the allegations of the plaintiff's responsive pleadings show that the parties were dealing at arm's length and were not in any fiduciary or confidential relationship which would give the plaintiff any legal right to rely on the adjuster's alleged representations, many of which amounted to no more than expressions of his opinion. There was no allegation that the plaintiff could not read, nor even that she did not read the release paper before signing it. Certainly there was no allegation of any act on the part of the defendants or the agent of the defendants' insurer which legally prevented her from reading the release or from obtaining counsel to explain to her the legal import of the paper.
The plaintiff's attempted rescission of the release by tendering $10 to the adjuster was ineffectual because there is no allegation that the full amount of the $30 consideration recited in the release was tendered nor was any excuse for not having done so alleged. "One who, for valuable considerations, including the payment to him of a given sum of money, has released another from all further liability for personal injuries sustained by the releaser, can not, even upon legal grounds, obtain a rescission of such contract of release, and recover upon the original cause of action, without first restoring, or offering to restore, to the releasee what he paid for such release." Harley v. Riverside Mills, 129 Ga. 214 (58 SE 711).
Under the authority of the cases cited herein and numerous others, all of the plaintiff's allegations, if proved, would be insufficient to cancel and set aside the release signed by the plaintiff. It follows that the court did not err in its judgments sustaining the demurrer ore tenus, dismissing the plaintiff's pleading and entering judgment for the defendants.
Judgments affirmed. Eberhardt and Russell, JJ., concur.
Hatcher, Stubbs, Land & Rothschild, Albert W. Stubbs, Swift, Pease, Davidson & Chapman, W. M. Page, contra.
James H. Fort, J. Gordon Young, for plaintiff in error.
Friday May 22 22:33 EDT

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