Civil action. On final hearing.
In pursuance of authority heretofore granted by the Chancellor, Anna Scerva has instituted and prosecuted this alleged cause of action in behalf of her mother, Elizabeth Buddy. The primary object of the action is to nullify a lease dated April 6, 1946, by which Elizabeth Buddy, as lessor, purported to demise to the defendants the premises designated as No. 18 Alden Avenue, at Roebling, Burlington County, New Jersey.
I shall not undertake to compose a narrative of all of the events and circumstances of gradational significance revealed by the evidence in this case.
I am persuaded that by reason of her bodily afflictions, her age, her illiteracy, her enfeebled mind, and the
intrinsic features of the lease, the lessor did not possess the ability to understand, in a reasonable manner, the nature and effect of the transaction in which she engaged. Campanc v. Angelini , 132 N.J. Eq. 285, 289, 28 A.2d 223.
I need mention only some of the considerations that have guided me to the conclusion expressed. Although the lessor was at the time of the execution of the lease 85 years of age, yet the term of the tenancy was for ten years with an option to extend it for ten additional years. Certain obligations were imposed by the lease upon the lessees, but the option accorded them to purchase the demised premises was to retain its vitality "without regard to the performance (by them) of the aforesaid conditions and covenants." The lessor was unable to sign her name. She signified her acquiescence by her mark.
The transcendent occurrence was the preparation a few days later of an affidavit by the attorney who was in attendance at the execution of the lease. The deponent named in the affidavit is the subscribing witness to the lease who stated "that he believes she (the lessor) was of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding at the time of the execution of the instrument."
The following excerpts extracted from the cross-examination of the attorney are illuminative:
"Q. Mr. Buddie (the defendant) thought he needed protection?
Q. What protection did ...