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.
The valid contracts of an insane person are those whereby he agrees to do whatever the law would compel him to do. Thus the release of a ground rent inherited from an ancestor, upon the happening of the conditions on which under the terms of the deed accepted by such ancestor, it should be released,1 is not made voidable by the insanity of the releasor. So a sale by a trustee is not affected by the insanity of the owner of the equity of redemption who bought the land subject to the mortgage.2 So where the vendor was sane when contract was made for the sale of realty, but was insane when the deed was delivered, the deed was held valid.3 The renewal by an insane person of an accommodation note given by him when sane is binding when the payee takes the new note bona fide and surrenders the old ;4 and the insanity of a maker of notes given as a subscription to buy a site for a school library, occurring after expenses were incurred in reliance on the subscription, but before the site was bought, does not revoke the subscription.5 So an insane person is liable for a breach, committed during insanity, of a contract made while sane.6 The most important topic under this head is necessaries. An insane person like an infant is liable for a reasonable value for such necessaries as are furnished to him,7 or to his wife and family.8 This liability is measured, not by the terms of the contract but by the pre-existing legal liability, and does not need any express promise.9 In the case of necessaries, the question of adjudication is immaterial. An insane person, after adjudication, may bind himself by a contract for necessaries if his guardian fails to provide them.10 By statute in some jurisdictions the estate of an insane person is liable for his support in an asylum.11 The rules determining what necessaries are, are much the same as in the case of infants. In most of the cases already cited, food and clothing were the necessaries in question. The services of a physician,12 or nurse,13 have been held necessaries; as have the services of an attorney where rendered in good faith to obtain the removal of a guardian and an adjudication of sanity.14 Where no personal liability has been held to exist in such cases, as on a contract for attorney's fees and expert witnesses in a hearing on lunacy, it is because under the procedure then in force allowance out of the estate of the insane person should be awarded as costs by the court before which the hearing is had.15 One who lends money to an insane person is subrograted to claims for necessaries and the like to the payment of which such money is devoted.16
1 Dexter v. Hart, 15 Wall. (U. S.) 9; Plaster v. Rigney, 97 Fed. 12; 38 C. C. A. 25; Rigney v. Plaster, 88 Fed. 686; McClun v. McClun, 176 111. 376; 52 N. E. 928, where it is said to be "wholly void "; Smith v. Smith, 106 N. C. 498; 11 S. E. 188; In re Misselwitz,, 177 Pa. St. 359; 35 Atl. 722, where it is said to be "of no avail"; Elias v. Loan Association, 46 S. C. 188; 24 S. E. 102, where it is said to be "null and void."
2 Plaster v. Rigney, 97 Fed. 12; 38 C. C. A. 25.
3 Arthurs v. Gas Co., 171 Pa. St. 532; 33 Atl. 88.
1 Hirst's Estate, 147 Pa. St. 319; 23 Atl. 455.
2 Bensieck v. Cook, 110 Mo. 173; 33 Am. St. Rep. 422; 19 S. W. 642.
3 Brown v. Miles, 61 Hun (N. Y.) 453.
4 Bank v. Sneed, 97 Tenn. 120; 56 Am. St. Rep. 788; 34 L. R. A. 274; 36 S. W. 716.
5 School District v. Stocking (also cited as School District v. Scheid-ley), 138 Mo. 672; 60 Am. St. Rep. 576; 37 L. R. A. 406; 40 S. W. 656.
6 Baldrick v. Garvey, 66 Ia. 14; 23 X. W. 156; Williams v. Hays, 143 N. Y. 442; 42 Am. St. Rep. 743; 26 L. R. A. 153; 38 N. E. 440: In re Strasburger, 132 N. Y. 128; 30 N. E. 379.
7 In re Rhodes, L. R. 44 Ch. D. 94; Borum v. Bell. 132 Ala, 85; 31 So. 454; Ex parte Northington, 37 Ala. 496; 79 Am. Dec. 67; Henry v. Fine. 23 Ark. 417; Miller v. Hart, 135 Ind. 201; 34 N. E. 1003; Sawyer v. Lufkin, 56 Me. 308; Hallett v. Oakes. 1 Cush. (Mass.) 296; Kendall v. May. 10 All. (Mass.) 59; Reando v. Misplay, 90 Mo. 251; 59 Am. Rep. 13; 2 S. W. 405; Young v. Stevens. 48 N. H. 133; 97 Am. Dec. 592; Van Horn v. Hann. 39 X. J. L. 207: Richardson v. Strong. 13 Ired. (N. C.) 106; 55 Am. Dec. 430;
Beals v. See, 10 Pa. St. 56; 49 Am. Dec. 573; La Rue v. Gilkyson, 4 Pa. St. 375; 45 Am. Dec. 700; Stannard v. Burn, 63 Vt. 244; 22 Atl. 460.
8 Booth v. Cottingham, 126 Ind. 431; 26 X. E. 84; Pearl v. McDowell, 3 J. J. Marsh. (Ky.) 658; 20 Am. Dec. 199; Shaw v. Thompson, 16 Pick. (Mass.) 198; 26 Am. Dec. 655.
9 Palmer v. Hospital, 10 Kan. App. 98; 61 Pac. 506.
10 Creagh v. Tunstall, 98 Ala. 240: Seiner v. Phelps, 11 Pick. (Mass.) 304; 22 Am. Dec. 372; Darby v. Cabanne, 1 Mo. App. 126; Maughan v. Burns, 64 Vt. 316; 23 Atl. 583; Stannard v. Burns, 63 Vt. 244; 22 Atl. 460.
11 Board of Chosen Freeholders of Camden County v. Ritson, 68 X. J. L. 666; 54 Atl. 839.
12 Booth v. Cottingham, 126 Ind. 431; 26 X. E. 84.