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.
If the ordinary rules of construction or of admissibility of extrinsic evidence can correct the mistake, reformation is not necessary.1 If the boundaries of realty are given correctly, reformation is not necessary to correct an erroneous statement as to the area of the realty contained in such boundaries.2 If, by the mistake of the insurance company, a policy is issued upon property other than that asked for by the insured, such mistake may be corrected without formal reformation.3 If, by the ordinary rules of construction, the contract is to be deemed one of exchange rather than ordinary sale, reformation is not necessary to show that such contract is one of exchange.4
21 Kennedy v. Poole, 213 Mass. 495, L. R. A. 1917A, 600, 100 N. E. 635; Perkins v. Kirby, 39 R. I. 343, 97 Atl. 884.
22 Webster v. Rogers, 87 Or. 547, 171 Pac. 197.
23 Kennedy v. Poole, 213 Mass. 495, L. R. A. 1917A, 600, 100 N. E. 635.
24 Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. v. Brown, 182 Ia. 1044, 165 N. W. 70 (in this case not a negotiable instrument).
25 McManus v. Philadelphia, 211 Pa. St. 394, 60 Atl. 1001.
26 Ackerlind v. United States, 49 Ct. Cl. 635.
27 Meacham Contracting Co. v. Hop-kinsville, 164 Ky. 703, 176 S. W. 187.
1 Baker v. Corbin, 148 Ga. 267, 96 S. E. 428; Lewis v. Woodbine Savings Bank, 182 Ia. 190, 165 N. W. 410; Bookhout v. Vuich, 101 Wash. 511, 172 Pac. 740.
2 Baker v. Corbin, 148 Ga. 267, 96 S. E. 428.
Whether reformation may be had on the application of one of the parties, for mistake in expression when such mistake is apparent from the entire contract and may be corrected by construction,5 is a question upon which the authorities are not unanimous. Some courts hold that any mistake in expression may be corrected in equity,6 in analogy to a bill quia timet, the question of the absolute necessity of reformation being allowed to affect only costs. A contract in which, by mistake, the date for performance is fixed at a time prior to the execution of the contract, may be reformed, even though the correct date might be inferred by persons familiar with that business.7 If a description of realty is defective in omitting the boundaries of the fourth side which must necessarily, from the rest of the description, be a straight line from the end of the third boundary to the place of beginning, equity may reform the instrument by adding, "thence to the place of beginning."8
Other courts hold that equity will not interfere unless the reformation sought will modify the legal effect of the contract,9 on the ground that otherwise plaintiff has an adequate remedy at law. The answer to this may well be that while adequate, the remedy may not always be clear. In any event, if the reformation sought will change the legal effect of the contract, even slightly, it will be given if otherwise proper.10 Reformation will not be given to correct the erroneous name of one of the natural boundaries of a tract of land if the tract can be identified from the rest of the description.11 If it is contended that an insurance company waived a provision of a policy with reference to change of ownership because of its failure to make inquiries upon such subject, such contention must be taken advantage of in an action at law and reformation will not be granted.12 If an action at law upon a redelivery bond can be maintained in spite of an error as to name of plaintiff in the original attachment suit, equity will not correct such mistake.13 If the party against whom reformation is sought has voluntarily tendered a new instrument in which such mistake is corrected, equity will not grant a decree of reformation.14 If by a mistake a provision for the annual payment of interest is omitted from a contract, but the purchaser has tendered a note secured by a mortgage which provides for annual interest, equity will not correct such mistake.15
3 Aetna Ins. Co. v. Brannon, 99 Tex. 391, 2 L. R. A. (N.S.) 548, 89 S. W.
4 Lewis v. Woodbine Savings Bank, 182 Ia. 190, 165 N. W. 410.
5 See Sec. 2032 and 2039.
6 Rich v. Trustee of Schools, 158 111. 242, 41 N. E. 924; Jenkins v. Davis, 141 Pa. St. 266, 21 Atl. 592; Pittsburg Lumber Co. v. Shell, 136 Tenn. 466, 189 S. W. 879.
7 Cameron v. White, 74 Wis. 425, 5 L. R. A. 493, 43 N. W. 155.
8 Rix v. Peters, 135 Ark. 193, 204 S. W. 845.
9 Shoemake v. Smith, 80 Ia. 655, 45 N. W. 744; Harm v. Voss (Ia.), 82 N. W. 753; King v. Brown, 78 N. H. 470, 101 Atl. 627; Rue v. Meira, 43 N. J. Eq. 377, 12 Atl. 369; Boardman v. In-surance Co., 84 Or. 60, 164 Pac. 558.
10 Stevens v. Hertzler, 114 Ala. 563, 22 So. 121; Ward v. Waterman, 85 Cal. 488, 24 Pac. 930.
11 Pittsburg Lumber Co. v. Shell, 136 Tenn. 466, 189 S. W. 879.