SPRINGFIELD – A Missouri woman has lost a bid to overturn a court order compelling her to sell her brother some of the land she will inherit from their mother.
On March 12, Judge Daniel E. Scott of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, affirmed the trial court’s decision in a case involving a piece of land Mary Sue Sanchez, Paul Spencer and their siblings inherited from their mother. In need of money, Sanchez offered to sell Spencer some of the land she will inherit.
She then signed a handwritten document dated Dec. 22, 2004, stating she received $2,900 for the land. The document included what the court called a “crudely-drawn map.” Spencer paid Sanchez all but $300.
Before being able to close the deal, another sibling filed a lawsuit that tied up the inherited land in court for years, but then resulted in a formal division among the siblings. When Spencer tried to close the sale in 2012, Sanchez refused to take the money, saying it was “too much land for not enough money.” Spencer then pursued specific performance, a court order requiring a party to perform a specific act, often what is stated in a contract.
Following the trial, the court adopted the surveyor’s legal description of the disputed tract, entered judgment for specific performance and denied all other relief claims.
Sanchez appealed the decision that challenged the handwritten document’s “contractual sufficiency,” saying it was simply an “agreement to agree” that lacked essential contract elements. She also claimed the document’s legal description was inadequate.
The court ruled that the document’s land description is sufficient, saying Sanchez signed the document to sell the land, accepted the initial $2,900 payment, then refused the final $300 payment to avoid closing the sale.
The court also rejected “her legally-unsupported assertion that specific performance cannot lie” because she signed the document before the formal partition of the siblings’ jointly-inherited land. The court acknowledged that specific performance of a written land contract could be withheld if it is inequitable, produces unfairness or results in an “unconscionable bargain,” but said, Sanchez “raises no such complaint on appeal.”