Joanne Carroll / STUFF
Fourteen witnesses spoke at a hearing in Greymouth High Court over the sale of a piece of lane in Kumara.
An elderly woman on the west coast was ordered to sell her land, although she claimed to have been bullied under the deal.
Judge Rob Osborne ruled that Eileen Marie Topliss had “full mental faculties” when she signed a contract to sell part of her property in Kumara, near Greymouth, to her nephew Christopher Meates and his wife Donna.
The Greymouth High Court heard that Topliss had signed a document with the Meates to sell a 79-hectare lot for $ 400,000, including a deposit of $ 10,000.
A year later, after her family intervened, she demanded the return of the bond and claimed that she was not legally bound to close the sale because the document was signed under duress.
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The Meates have sought an order from the High Court to enforce the contract.
Judge Osborne’s ruling indicates that Topliss, now 86, began subdividing her large block of land into two lots in 2016. She told Donna Meates she was too old to continue tending to the land. farm and wanted money to visit her son in Australia.
Topliss told the court she was unaware that an appraiser was examining the property and that she had not discussed the sale to Meates, who only visited her to feed her meals.
She was asked about a $ 30,000 loan she got from the bank to complete the subdivision, but said she couldn’t remember what the loan was for.
A mechanic who worked for both sides said Topliss told her in 2017 that she was selling the block to the Meates because it was too much for her. He told the court he didn’t feel she was pressured to sell and was focused on selling until “one of her boys got involved”.
Topliss said Donna Meates harassed her almost daily to buy the property and that she felt threatened.
She said Meates showed up with $ 10,000 in cash and told her to have a good vacation. Topliss said they were arguing and she told Meates she didn’t want to sell.
Meates said Topliss’s claims were completely false.
Topliss’s brother told the court he thought she was forgetting in early 2018. She told him that she was having difficulty managing the farm and that her sons did not want to take it over.
She told him that Meates had stood over her in a threatening manner and told him to sign the document and not tell anyone about it. She had tried unsuccessfully to return the money to Meates, her brother said.
Topliss’ son came to Australia in October 2018 and found out that she was in a very confused state. He found the deal and his mother told him that she felt intimidated into signing it.
His other son, based in Greymouth, said his mother was confused. She would forget and lose things and repeat herself.
Judge Osborne said he believed Topliss could remember the talks to sell the property and refused to acknowledge that they took place. He found that his will to sell had weakened over time, and he didn’t accept that Meates was “very picky” or left Topliss feeling threatened.
Witnesses described Topliss as “pig-headed” and confident and in control, the judge said.
He found that the sales contract was a conditional contract that Topliss had used his free will to sign.
He ordered Topliss to complete the subdivision and sale by January 10, 2022.
“[Topliss’] relations not only with the Meates, but with several other interested parties and professionals proved that she retained all of her mental faculties, ”said the judge.