ROCHELLE v. Hartley MEAD
Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Litchfield, 2015.
2015 WL 6762975
Facts: Martha Rochelle and Hartley Mead had their marriage dissolved on August 27, 2010. The
parties came to an agreement which the court incorporated into the judgement. On February 11,
2015, Mr. Mead filed a motion to open the judgement, alleging that he was subjected to
continuous threatening and harassing by Ms. Rochelle which caused him to concede to the terms
of the separation agreement included in the judgement. Mr. Mead was diagnosed with ADHD in
2012 after seeing a therapist for six months and did not see the therapist in 2013 or 2014 before
returning in 2015. He asked a bunch of questions regarding the effects of ADHD on his ability to
negotiate the separation agreement. The therapist said that someone with ADHD was more
susceptible to coercion and manipulation than someone without ADHD. Mr. Mead described the
year leading up to the divorce and outlined the stress he had been under as a defense that he
agreed to the terms of the agreement to “just get it off his plate”. His ex-wife had been diagnosed
with a life threatening illness a year before and then three months later asked for a separation so
that she could have some time to herself. Ms. Rochelle hired a lawyer and presented Mr. Mead
with an agreement and told him that he did not need a lawyer and that they could use hers or seek
out a mediator. Mr. Mead went on to hire a lawyer who strongly advised him against agreeing to
Ms. Rochelle’s proposal.
Issue: Was Mr. Mead subjected to behavior which coerced him into making concessions in the
agreement under duress?
Ruling: The court found that Mr. Mead’s mental health alone was not enough to consider duress.
The court denied his motion to reopen judgement.
Reasons: The court reasoned that the guidelines for opening judgments on the grounds of duress
are not disputed. Therefore the trial court has the discretion to determine whether a judgement
should be opened for cause. This motion to open requires the court to make a factual
determination, when grounded on mistake of duress, before it can determine whether to accept or
deny the motion. They must determine whether the deal was obtained by fraud, duress, accident,
or mistake. “A stipulated judgement is not voidable on the ground that it was accepted with
reluctance, so long as its procurement was not the result of fraud, duress, or mistake”. A party
must prove a wrongful act that left the victim no reasonable alternative, that the victim approved,
and that the resulting transaction was unfair to the victim. The facts in the case do not support the
defendants claim. Whether his ADHD had any effect on him agreeing to the settlement is
unknown. What is known is that the evidence shows that he did choose to proceed with the
agreement against her advice. The defendant disregarded the plaintiff’s advice, his lawyer’s
advice, and was thoroughly walked through the agreement by the court, which found the terms of
the agreement fair before they signed off on it. In the end, the court ruled that Mr. Mead’s mental
state alone was not enough to support a claim of duress and reopen the judgement.