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Houlahan v. Horzepa

Decided: October 4, 1957.


Mariano, J.s.c.


This is a suit for the annulment of a consummated marriage on the grounds that at the time of the ceremony the defendant was incapable of consenting thereto, and also for fraudulent concealment of mental illness. The defendant is represented by duly appointed guardian ad litem , George Warren, Esquire.

The parties first met in the Fall of 1949, and beginning the early part of 1950 they saw each other frequently. In February of 1950 they became engaged, after which he saw

her daily. From February 1950 to April 15, 1950, the date of the marriage, the defendant's conduct and behavior were normal in every respect. She attended showers given by her friends and participated in the preparations for the marriage. She also manifested a proper appreciation of what she was doing and the consequence and significance of the different steps and occasions leading to the marriage.

The evidence demonstrates that the defendant had a proper conception of the marriage ceremony and understood the responsibility attached to the marriage relationship. A reception following the ceremony was attended by several hundred people. She acknowledged their presence and conversed with them and accepted their congratulations, and generally conducted herself in a proper manner under the circumstances. After the reception the defendant drove their automobile to the State of Virginia where they spent their honeymoon.

Plaintiff testified that he exercised his marital rights.

Plaintiff further admits that prior to his marriage he was aware of the fact that defendant had been hospitalized, but he did not know it was in a mental institution. Testimony was produced to show that on March 7, 1950 he spoke with the defendant's mother, stating to her that the had been informed of her previous nervous breakdown; also prior to the marriage he accompanied his wife to a physician so she could receive medical treatment for a stomach disorder. There is also testimony in the case that the plaintiff was informed by the defendant's brother that she had suffered a nervous breakdown prior to the marriage.

Plaintiff frankly admits that at no time prior to the marriage did he inquire of the defendant as to whether she had been confined in a hospital of any type whatsoever. It was not until November 1951 that he ever suspected that his wife had been committed to a mental institution prior to his marriage.

In the present case the defendant entered Bellevue Hospital in the State of New York on March 17, 1945, and was committed March 20, 1945 by Bellevue Hospital to

Brooklyn State Hospital, where she entered March 21, 1945 and was confined to October 17, 1945, when she was put on convalescent care and discharged in the custody of her mother for a period of one year. On October 17, 1946 the patient was discharged as recovered. The diagnosis was dementia praecox -- catatonic type.

Two years thereafter, on November 17, 1948, defendant was admitted to the Kings Park State Hospital in New York State from Kings County Hospital. On April 9, 1949 patient was placed on convalescent care and released in the custody of her mother for a period of three months. On July 9, 1949 the patient's three months' period of convalescent care having expired, patient was discharged "much improved."

Within less than a year after the discharge above mentioned the defendant married plaintiff on April 15, 1950. Within less than three months thereafter she showed signs of mental illness and was placed as a voluntary patient in the Glenwood Sanitarium in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, New Jersey. She remained there just a short time, but the diagnosis was dementia praecox -- paranoid type. At the time of discharge it was reported that she was in a state of partial remission. She left the sanitarium in August 1950. From August 1950 until November 1951 defendant and plaintiff resided together but under considerable difficulty, and the ability to live together was entirely due to the patience and loving kindness of the plaintiff. After defendant left Glenwood Sanitarium there was no sexual intercourse between plaintiff and defendant because of her condition. On November 26, 1951 she was admitted as a voluntary patient to the New Jersey State Hospital at Marlboro where she remained until February 8, 1952, when she was discharged, upon request, "much improved." The diagnosis was dementia praecox -- catatonic type. Upon her discharge from the hospital she returned to the home of plaintiff and remained until June of that same year, when she was committed to the New Jersey State Hospital at Marlboro upon the certificate of two doctors. She has been confined there since that time, although on at least one occasion she was

home for a short period of time on visit. The diagnosis is dementia praecox -- catatonic type.

Plaintiff admittedly, as far back as August of 1950, was aware that his wife had been mentally disturbed. It was at this time that he personally accompanied her to a psychiatrist. Two years thereafter, except for very short periods of institutionalization, he continued to live with the defendant, without having intercourse after September 1950. Undoubtedly, plaintiff was solicitous and attentive to his wife, with full awareness of her mental history. On January 1953 he took his ...

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