that this is the case, it would be material. Accord Elledge v. Cornelius, 86 F. Supp. 766 (W.D. Okla.1947).
The final contention advanced by the defendant is that the plaintiffs cannot claim that their reliance on the agent's representations, if any were in fact made, was reasonable. This contention raises significant questions and the Court will examine the authorities on this point. "The inveterate policy of the law is to encourage, promote, and sustain the compromise and settlement of disputed claims." Tulsa City Lines, Inc. v. Mains, 107 F.2d 377, 380 (10th Cir.1939). Still, if a settlement was the product of a fraud upon which a party relied, it will be set aside. See Ibid. While it is the policy of the law to protect the dignity of contracts, there is equally as strong a policy to protect the gullible from sharp practices and not to allow a wrongdoer to profit from his wrong.
As indicated earlier, a person claiming to have been harmed by a false representation must have a right to rely upon the representation, and this plainly presupposes that the party is justified under all of the circumstances in relying on it. 3 Pomeroy, Equity Jurisprudence § 891 (5th ed. Symons 1941). A question often arising in these cases is whether the party had a duty to investigate the representation made to him. If so, any knowledge that might have been gained by such an investigation is considered as gained, see Palace Laundry Dry Cleaning Co. v. Cole, 41 A.2d 231, 232 (Munic.App.D.C.1945) (dictum), because the general rule is "[one] who signs a contract which he had an opportunity to read and understand is bound by its provisions," Paterson v. Reeves, 113 U.S.App.D.C. 74, 75, 304 F.2d 950, 951 (1962).
In recent years there appears to have been a trend in this area away from the theory of caveat emptor. See Sainsbury v. Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines, 183 F.2d 548, 551, 21 A.L.R.2d 266 (4th Cir.1950). Such a trend is certainly proper for it seems unfair to allow a wrongdoer to defend on the ground that his word should not have been believed. The Restatement of Torts indicates that in some circumstances an investigation into the truth or falsity of a representation is not necessary to justify reliance upon it. See Restatement, Torts, § 540 (1938). This would seem especially true where such an inquiry would be expensive, difficult or demand a certain amount of expertise not possessed by the party, or where the truth of the matter would be particularly within the knowledge of the person making the representation. See, e.g., Stein v. Treger, 86 U.S.App.D.C. 400, 182 F.2d 696 (1950). However, where the truth or falsity of the representation is obvious on its face, or if a mere cursory glance would have revealed its falsity, the party would not necessarily be justified in relying upon the representation, see Restatement, op. cit. supra § 540, comment b; § 541 and comment a, the rationale being that if something is apparent to ordinary observation it cannot be ignored, see Sainsbury v. Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines, supra, 183 F.2d at 551. In the last analysis, then, whether there is a duty to inquire in a particular case depends on what is reasonable under the circumstances. See Chesapeake & O. Ry. v. Howard, 14 App.D.C. 262, 294-295 (1899), aff'd, 178 U.S. 153, 20 S. Ct. 880, 44 L. Ed. 1015 (1900). If under all of the circumstances it would be reasonable to rely solely upon the representations made, then a failure to investigate will not preclude a party from moving to set aside the transaction. On the other hand, if under all of the circumstances it would be unreasonable to rely solely upon the representations made, then the party will be bound by his action.
With the foregoing principles in mind, the Court will examine the circumstances surrounding the transactions involved herein to determine if it was reasonable for the plaintiffs to fail to read the papers which they signed, or if they did read them, whether they should have relied upon the representations they said were made to them. The evidence in this case indicates that neither of the plaintiffs were persons of considerable education. While Mr. McCarthy was a businessman, the president of his own company, it appears that the business was by no means a large one but rather a small one which was more or less a family affair. Further, it appears that neither Mr. nor Mrs. McCarthy were trained in business but that his experience was in the field of electronics and his work consisted primarily in the sale and repair of electrical appliances. As indicated earlier, the plaintiffs and the insurance agent became quite friendly after Mr. McCarthy's accident. The plaintiff, Mr. McCarthy, and the agent were both Roman Catholics and the testimony indicated that they discussed at some length the desire of the agent to join the Knights of Columbus, of which Mr. McCarthy was a member. And further, around the time when the plaintiffs signed the release in question here, Mr. McCarthy presented the agent with a Christmas present.
In view of these circumstances, the Court cannot rule that as a matter of law it was unreasonable for the plaintiffs to sign without inquiring into the contents of the document even though they never denied having an opportunity to read it. In addition to the opportunity available for examination, the Court feels that the relationship between the parties must also be considered in determining whether the plaintiffs acted reasonably, and that because of the relationship here, it was not unreasonable as a matter of law for the plaintiffs to trust the agent and rely solely upon what he allegedly said. As stated earlier, the Court is not indicating its belief that any false representations were made but is merely accepting the jury findings for the purposes of these motions.
The relationship between the parties must also be examined in determining the reasonableness of the plaintiffs' signing of the draft a short time after they signed the release. Although the evidence indicated that the insurance company's agent was not present when the plaintiffs signed the draft, and even assuming that the plaintiffs read the language on the draft, the jury could have found that they were still under the influence of the representations allegedly made to them and that, having no reason to distrust the agent, they considered the language on this draft to be merely a matter of form. The Court cannot say that, as a matter of law, such a finding would be incorrect, or that the plaintiffs' actions were unreasonable under these circumstances.
For the foregoing reasons, the motion of the defendant for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, for a new trial, is denied.