This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
At early law it was laid down that a party should not "disable himself"1 by alleging his insanity. By this view of the law, his contracts generally were absolutely valid, unless a guardian were appointed to represent him, or he had died leaving his heirs and personal representatives to avoid the contract. At Modern Law this rule has been repeatedly rejected,2 and under proper circumstances insanity may be interposed as a defense by the insane person himself.3 In some cases the conveyances and contracts of an insane person have been said to be void as a class ;4 but in most of the cases cited below, it was not necessary to hold the contract void ab initio, as the record showed that proper steps had been taken to avoid it; and accordingly it had become void, whether originally void or voidable. Still it has recently been held that the only liability of an insane person is for the consideration, on common counts.5 At Modern Law the contracts of an insane person are to be divided into two general classes, those entered into before the insane person was adjudicated insane in a proceeding instituted for that purpose; and those entered into after such adjudication.
21 See Ch. XI and XII. 1 Co. Litt. 247b; Beverly's Ease., 4 Coke 123b.
2 Grant v. Thompson, 4 Conn. 203; 10 Am. Dec. 119; Mitchell v. Kingman, 5 Pick. (Mass.) 431; Rice v. Peet, 15 Johns. (N. Y.) 503; Bensell v. Chancellor, 5 Whart.
3 See eases cited in this section.
4 Parker v. Marco. 76 Fed. 510; German. etc.. Society v. De Lash-mutt. 67 Fed. 309 (as to a bona fide purchaser from grantor) ; Sullivan v. Flynn, 9 Mack. (D. C.) 396; Van Patton v. Beals, 46 Ia. 62; Corbit v. Smith, 7 Ia. 60; 71 Am. Dec. 431; Owing's Case, 1 Bland. Ch. (Md.) 370; 17 Am. Dec. 311; Seaver v. Phelps, 11 Pick. (Mass.) 304; 22 Am. Dec. 372; Brown v. Miles, 61 Hun (N. Y.) 453; Lee v. Lee. 4 McCord (S. C.) 183; 17 Am. Dec. 722.
5 Milligan v. Pollard, 112 Ala. 465; 20 So. 620.