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.
Mistake as to an essential element of a contract such as to the existence of the party, the subject-matter or the consideration, or the identity of the subjectmatter or the identity of the parties where that is material, prevents a transaction from amounting to a contract.1 The fact that the transaction which is entered into under a mistake of one of these types is reduced to writing, does not alter the fact that there is no genuine agreement back of the outward written form. Accordingly, extrinsic evidence is admissible to show that a written contract was entered into under a mistake of one of these types,2 whether such mistake relates to the terms of the contract,3 or to the subject-matter.4 Extrinsic evidence is admissible to show a mistake as to the contents of a release,5 or an insurance policy.6 Extrinsic evidence is admissible to show that the vendor of realty made a mistake as to the area thereof,7 or that a contract for an improvement was entered into under a mistake which was due to the engineer of the adversary party.8 A written contract which is entered into by reason of fraud or mistake as to the identity of the adversary party, does not prevent the person who is subsequent to such fraud or mistake from enforcing the real agreement between the parties.9 The parol evidence rule has, of course, no application to mistake in the expression where reformation is sought.10 If it did, reformation could never be had under any circumstances. The courts are careful, however, to limit reformation to cases of mistake, fraud, and the like, since if by reformation any oral term could be added to the written contract, the sole effect of the parol evidence rule would be to drive the parties to equity.11
29 Emerson-Brantingham Co. v. Lyons, 102 Kan. 733, 172 Pac. 513.
11owa. Jeez v. A. Y. McDonald Mfg. Co., 179 Ia. 103. 161 X. W. 62.
Montana. Petit v. Sinclier, 53 Mont. 317, 163 Pac. 467.
Nevada. Dixon v. Miller. - Nev. - , 184 Pac. 926.
New Mexico. Pople v. Orekar, 22 N. M. 307, 161 Pac. 1110.
North Carolina. American Potato Co. v. Jenette Bros., 172 N. Car. 1, 89 S. E. 791.
Oklahoma. McLean v. Southwestern Casualty Ins. Co., - Okla. - , 159 Pac. 660.
See also, Nolan v. Guggerty, - Ia. - , 174 N. W. 706.
2 See Sec. 224 et seq., 242 and 251 et seq.
3 See Sec. 133 et seq., 150 et seq., 176 et seq., 477 et seq., and 503 et seq.
4 Parham-Thomas-McSwain v. Atlantic Life Ins. Co., 104 S. Car. 223, 88 S. E. 470.
See also, Nolan v. Guggerty, - Ia. - , 174 N. \V. 706.
1 See Sec. 251 et seq.
2 United States. El Dia Insurance Co. v. Sinclair, 228 Fed. 833, 143 C. C. A. 231.
Alabama. Manning v. Garter, - Ala. - , 77 So. 744.
Georgia. Greer v. Caldwell, 14 Ga. 207.
Kentucky. Blanchard v. Kenton, 7 Ky. (4 Bibb.) 451; Murphy v. Trigg, 17 Ky. (1 T. B. Mon.) 72; Lingley v. Sharp, 23 Ky. (7 T. B. Mon.) 248.
Louisiana. Ford v. Parsons, 142 La. 1093, 78 So. 128.
Massachusetts. Long v. Athol, 106 Mass. 407, 17 L. R. A. (N.S.) 06, 82 N. E. 665.
Mississippi Butler v. State, 81 Miss. 734, 33 So. 847.
Hew York. Coles v. Bowne, 10 Paige (N. Y.) 526; Welles v. Yates, 44 N. Y. 525; Bryce v. Lorillard R. Ins. Co., 55 N. Y. 240, 14 Am. Rep. 249.
North Carolina. American Potato Co. v. Jenette Bros. Co., 172 N. Car. 1, 89 S. E. 791.
South Carolina. Etheredge v. Aetna Insurance Co., 102 S. Car. 313, 86 S. E. 687.
West Virginia. Rosin Coal Land Co. v. Martin, 81 W. Va. 33, 94 S. E. 358.
Washington. Union Machinery & Supply Co. v. Darnell, 89 Wash. 226, 154 Pac. 183.
'Alabama. Dwight Mfg. Co. v. Word, - Ala. - , 75 So. 979.
Illinois. Barrie v. Frost, 105 111. App. 187.
Iowa. Jeez v. A. Y. McDonald Mfg. Co., 179 Ia. 193, 161 N. W. 62.
Kentucky. Atwater v. Cardwell (Ky.), 54 S. W. 960.
North Carolina. Gwaltney v. Assurance Society, 132 N. Car. 925, 44 S. E. 659; American Potato Co. v. Jenette Bros. Co., 172 N. Car. 1, 89 S. E. 791.
Wisconsin. Lord v. Accident Association, 89 Wis. 19, 46 Am. St. Rep. 815, 26 L. R. A. 741, 61 N. W. 293.
4 Bedell v. Wilder, 65 Vt. 406, 36 Am. St. Rep. 871, 26 Atl. 589.
5 Dwight Mfg. Co. v. Word, - Ala. - , 75 So. 979; Jeez v. A. Y. McDonald Mfg. Co., 179 Ia. 193, 161 N W. 62.
6 Etheredge v. Aetna Insurance Co., 102 S. Car. 313, 86 S. E. 687.
7 Manning v. Carter, - Ala. - , 77 So. 744.
8 Long v. Athol, 196 Mass. 497, 17 L. R. A. (N.S.) 96, 82 N. E. 665.