What to do if my 88 year old father-in-law is under treatment for mild dementia and was sold $7000 of food and 2 freezers from a meat company in a 3 week period/.

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What to do if my 88 year old father-in-law is under treatment for mild dementia and was sold $7000 of food and 2 freezers from a meat company in a 3 week period/.

He clearly did not understand what happened in the delivery of the second freezer and food. What legal recourse is available both criminally and civilly?

Asked on February 3, 2015 under Business Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Civilly, you may be able to get your father out of the obligation to pay (void the transaction) IF you can show that at the time he entered into the transaction, he was not mentally competent to enter into contracts. (This would require the appropriate medical diagnosis--and not just that he suffers some impairment, but that he is not competent at all.) If he did pay already, he could potentially recover the money paid IF he can return what he got in usable shape; if he can't return all it, he could probably, in this case, still get back for what he could. For example, if the food cannot be returned, but he could return the freezers, he could get back what was paid for the freezers.

If he was mentally competent, however, then even if this was a very bad idea, unless the seller did something itself inherently wrong, such as lied to him (e.g. committed fraud), threatened him, etc., he will be obligated to the deal. The law does not protect mentally competent adults from making bad decisions.

There would be no criminal liability unless some criminal act (stealing his bank or other information and placing the orders for him; threatening him with harm) occured.


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