1 Cod. Lib. 2, tit. 21, § 6.
2 Beatty v. Fishel, 100 Mass. 448 (1868); Stewart v. Thomas, 15 Gray, 171; Baldwin v. Parker, 99 Mass. 79; Howe v. Howe, 99 Mass. 88.
3 Pasley v. Freeman, 3 T. R. 51.
4 Gould v. Gould, 3 Story, 540; Trenchard v. Wanley, 2 P. Wms. 166; Chesterfield v. Janssen, 2 Ves. 155, 156; Fullagar v. Clark, 18 Ves. 483; 1 Story, Eq. Jur. § 190.
5 1 Story, Eq. Jur. § 190; Chesterfield v. Janssen, 2 Yes. 155, 156; Fullagar v. Clark, 18 Ves. 483; Boynton v. Hubbard, 7 Mass. 112. VOL. I. 37 furnish a good ground of relief at law to the full extent of its jurisdiction, although it may not be given in the same way as by a court of equity; and if relief can be practically and satisfactorily administered through the forms of law, it will be granted there as readily as in equity.1 And when there is a complete and adequate remedy at law, a bill in equity will not lie.2
§ 626. In cases of fraud, the general rule is, that a court of equity has jurisdiction, even although the party deceived may obtain relief by an action at law.3 But where the complainant does not seek to set aside the contract in toto, but merely to recover a compensation in damages, his proper remedy is by an action at law, inasmuch as this is properly a question for a jury.4 But where the bill has the payment of damages as the alternative, damages may be awarded.5
§ 627. Where contracts are made with persons of weak intellects, or whose minds are enfeebled by disease, the law is peculiarly scrutinizing, and is very prompt to infer fraud wherever the circumstances indicate that any improper advantage has been taken, or any undue influence has been exerted upon such persons; and it will raise a presumption of fraud, where, if the case were one of a person in full exercise of his faculties, no such presumption would be raised.6 Thus, that the party should appear to have been so completely imbecile as to justify a jury, under a commission of lunacy, in putting his person and property under the protection of a court of chancery; but if he appear to have been of a feeble understanding, and the bargain be so unconscionable as to betoken imposition, it will be set aside in equity.1 But if the person be possessed of an ordinary understanding, and no fraud have been practised on him, the mere fact that his bargain is imprudent, or greatly to his disadvantage, will afford no ground to free him from it.2
1 Boynton v. Hubbard, 7 Mass. 112; Jackson v. Burgott, 10 Johns. 457; Bright v. Eynon, 1 Burr. 396; Hazard v. Irwin, 18 Pick. 95; Boreing v. Singery, 2 Har. & Johns. 455; Singery v. The Attorney-General, 2 Har. & Johns. 487; Corbett v. Brown, 8 Bing. 33; Polhill v. Walter, 3 B. & Ad. 114.
2 Clark v. Flint, 22 Pick. 231; Boston Water Power Co. v. Boston & Worcester R. R. Co., 16 Pick. 512; Dana v. Valentine, 5 Met. 8. See also Law v. Thorndike, 20 Pick. 317.
3 Bradley v. Bosley, 1 Barb. Ch. 149. See Hobartu. Andrews, 21 Pick. 526, 533. But in cases charging fraud, and fraud only, the court has no jurisdiction. Fiske v. Slack, 21 Pick. 361; Holland v. Cruft, 20 Pick. 321.
4 Ibid.; Cocke v. Hardin, Litt. Sel. Cas. 374; Russell v. Clark, 7 Cranch, 69; Newham v. May, 13 Price, 749; Blackwell v. Oldham, 4 Dana, 195; Hardwick v. Forbes, 1 Bibb, 212. See 2 Story, Eq. Jur. § 794 to 800.
5 Andrews v. Brown, 3 Cush. 130.
6 Blachford p, Christian, 1 Knapp, 77. In this case, Lord Wynford said: "The law will not assist a man who is capable of taking care of his own interest, except in cases where he has been imposed upon by deceit, where A., being eighty-three years of age, was entitled to the annual produce of a fund of the value of £6000, during his life, and he executed a deed, assigning all his right therein to his daughter and her husband, to whom the reversion belonged, in consideration of an annuity of £40 a year; and in a suit instituted to reduce the deed, it was admitted that the assignor was very weak and infirm, and addicted to intoxication; and it also appeared that the deed was drawn up by the agent of the daughter and her husband, and that no agent or attorney was employed in behalf of the father: under these circumstances, it was held, that the deed was void, on the ground of over-influence.1 It is not necessary in such cases against which ordinary prudence could not protect him. If a person of ordinary understanding, on whom no fraud has been practised, makes an imprudent bargain, no court of justice can release him from it. Inadequacy of consideration is not a substantial ground for setting aside a conveyance of property; indeed, from the fluctuation in prices, owing principally to the gambling spirit of speculation that unhappily now prevails, it would be difficult to determine what is an inadequate price for any thing that is sold; at the time of the sale, the buyer probably calculates on a rise in the value of the article bought, of which he would have the advantage; he must not, therefore, complain if his speculations are disappointed, and he becomes a loser instead of a gainer by his bargain. But those who from imbecility of mind are incapable of taking care of themselves, are under the special protection of the law. The strongest mind cannot always contend with deceit and falsehood; a bargain, therefore, into which a weak one is drawn under the influence of either of these, ought not to be held valid, for the law requires that good faith should be observed in all transactions between man and man. If this conveyance could be impeached on the ground of the imbecility of Fitzsimmons only, a sufficient case has not been made out to render it invalid; for the imbecility must be such as would justify the jury, under a commission of lunacy, in putting his property and person under the protection of the Chancellor; but a degree of weakness of intellect, far below that which would justify such a proceeding, coupled with other circumstances, to show that the weakness, such as it was, had been taken advantage of, will be sufficient to set aside any important deed." See also Gartside v. Isherwood, 1 Bro. C. C. 560, 561; 1 Story, .Eq. Jur. § 234 to 238, and cases cited; Malin v. Malin, 2 Johns. Ch. 238; Huguenin v. Baseley, 14 Ves. 290; Ball v. Mannin, 3 Bligh (n. s.), 1; Bennet v. Vade, 2 Atk. 325, 329; Osmond v. Fitzroy, 3 P. Wms. 130; Ex parte Allen, 15 Mass. 58; M'Diarmid v. MDiarmid, 3 Bligh (n. s.), 374; Breed v. Pratt, 18 Pick. 115; Welker v. Ebert, 29 Wis. 194 (1871).