HARDIN V. BOYD, 113 U. S. 756 (1885)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hardin v. Boyd, 113 U.S. 756 (1885)

Hardin v. Boyd

Submitted December 22, 1884

Decided March 15, 1885

113 U.S. 756


No rule can be laid down in reference to amendments of equity pleadings that will govern all cases. They must depend upon the special circumstances of each case, and in phasing upon applications to amend, the ends of justice must not be sacrificed to mere form or by too rigid an adherence to technical rules of practice.

In a suit brought by the heirs and administrator of a vendor of land by title bond, the bill alleged that the bond had been obtained by fraud, and, also that the land had not been fully paid for according to the contract of sale. Its prayer was, among other things, that the bond be cancelled; that an account be taken of the rents and profits which the purchaser had enjoyed, and of the amount paid on his purchase; that the title of the complainants be quieted, and that they have such other relief as equity might require. At the final hearing, the complainants were permitted to amend the prayer of the bill so as to ask, in the alternative, for a decree for the balance of the purchase money and a lien on the land to secure the payment thereof. Held that no error was committed in allowing the amendment. It did not make a new case, but only enabled the court to adapt its relief to that

Page 113 U. S. 757

made by the bill and sustained by the proof. The bill, with the prayer thus amended, was in the form in which it might have been originally prepared consistently with the rules of equity practice.

The case distinguished from Shields v. Burrow, 17 How. 130.

Although the debt for unpaid purchase money was barred by limitation under the local law, the lien therefor on the land was not barred, for there was no such open adverse possession for the period within which actions for the recovery of real estate must be brought as would cut off the right to enforce the equitable lien for the purchase money.

This was a bill in equity to set aside a conveyance of lands, or (as amended below) in the alternative for payment of the purchase money and to make it a lien on the lands.

The main question on this appeal relates to the alleged error of the circuit court in permitting the complainants at the hearing to amend the prayer of their bill so as to obtain relief not before specifically asked, and which, appellants contend, is inconsistent with the case made by the bill. To make intelligible this and other questions in the cause, it is necessary to state the issues and the general effect of the evidence.

On the 28th day of March, 1871, John D. Ware executed his title bond to William D. Hardin reciting the sale to the latter of certain lands in Crittenden County, Arkansas, for the sum of $20,000, one-half of which was to be paid at the delivery of the bond and the remainder on the 1st day of January thereafter in county scrip or warrants, and providing for a conveyance to the purchaser when the purchase money should be fully paid. Ware died at his home in Tennessee on the 6th day of December, 1871. In the same month, the Probate Court of Crittenden County appointed L. B. Hardin (a brother of the purchaser) to be administrator of Ware, and on the 15th of January, 1872, his bond having been on that day filed and approved, letters of administration were directed to be issued. Under date of the 23d day of January of the same year, L. B. Hardin, in his capacity as administrator, executed to the purchaser an absolute conveyance of all the right, title, and interest of Ware in the lands. The deed recited the payment by the grantee to the said administrator of $10,000 in Crittenden county scrip and warrants, and that the deed was made in conformity with an order of the probate court.

Page 113 U. S. 758

The General Statutes of Arkansas declare that

"When any testator or intestate shall have entered into any contract for the conveyance of lands and tenements in his lifetime which was not executed and performed during his life and shall not have given power by will to carry the same into execution, it shall be lawful for the executor or administrator of such testator or intestate, with the approval, in term time, to execute a deed of conveyance of and for such lands, pursuant to the terms of the original contract, such executor or administrator being satisfied that payment has been made therefor according to the contract and reciting the fact of such payment to the testator or intestate or to such executor or administrator, as the case may be, which deed may be acknowledged as other deeds and shall have the same force and effect to pass the title of such testator or intestate to any such lands as if made pursuant to a decree of court."

Act Feb. 21, 1859; Gantt's Dig. 180.

By deed of July 10, 1877, W. D. Hardin conveyed these lands to his wife, and they were in possession, by tenants, when the present suit was instituted on the 28th of October, 1881. The complainants are the heirs at law of the vendor and one Boyd, his administrator, the latter having been appointed at the last domicile of the decedent in Tennessee. The defendants were W. D. Hardin and his wife and their tenants. The bill proceeds upon these grounds: that Ware's obligation of March 28, 1871, was obtained through fraud and imposition practiced by the purchaser; that the latter was at liberty, according to the real agreement between him and Ware, to pay the entire purchase money in county scrip or warrants; that he and his wife were in possession, claiming the lands to be the absolute property of the latter, although no part of the purchase money had been paid except $5,400 paid to the intestate in county scrip or warrants at their face value; that no such proceedings as are recited in the deed to W. D. Hardin were ever had in the Probate Court of Crittenden County; that the $10,000 in scrip or warrants, which the deed states was paid by W. D. Hardin, were disposed of at private sale for fifteen cents on the dollar of their face value, and the proceeds applied, by

Page 113 U. S. 759

collusion between the purchaser and his brother, to a claim which they, acting together, fraudulently procured to be allowed in favor of W. D. Hardin against Ware's estate, when in fact no such indebtedness existed; that all the papers relating to the estate of Ware were destroyed by Hardin, while in his custody as clerk of the probate court, for the purpose of concealing his fraudulent scheme to obtain the lands without paying for them; that the deed from Hardin to his wife was without consideration, and that Hardin, after he took possession of the lands, appropriated to his own use all the rents annually accruing therefrom.

The prayer of the bill was that

"the said bond for title and the said deeds made by Lucian B. Hardin to said William D. Hardin, and by the latter to said Lida Hardin, his wife, may be set aside for fraud; that an account may be taken of the said rents and profits, and of the value of the county warrants delivered by said William D. Hardin, and that your orators may have a personal decree against said defendants for any balance that may be found to be justly due to them; that a decree may be rendered quieting the title of the plaintiff herein to said lands against said claims of the said defendants, and for such other relief as equity may require."

Hardin and wife filed separate answers, and also pleas relying upon the statute of limitations in bar of the suit. They also demurred to the bill upon numerous grounds.

A good deal of evidence was taken touching the physical and mental condition of Ware at and before the execution of his title bond, as well as upon the issue as to whether Hardin had paid for the lands according to contract. Without detailing all the facts, it is sufficient to say that according to the weight of the evidence, the payment to Ware of $5,400 in county scrip or warrants was the only one ever really made on Hardin's purchase of these lands, and that the alleged payment subsequently of $10,000 in like scrip or warrants to L. B. Hardin, administrator, was not intended to be a payment on the land, because the proceeds of their sale were, by collusion between him and W. D. Hardin, appropriated by the latter on a fictitious claim asserted by him against Ware's estate.

Page 113 U. S. 760

Such was the state of the record when the cause came on for hearing. After the evidence was read, the complainants asked leave to amend the prayer of the bill by inserting therein the following words:

"Or, if thought proper, that the court give a decree for the purchase money due on said lands, and that the plaintiffs be decreed to have a lien on said lands for the payment thereof, and that said lien be foreclosed."

This amendment was allowed, and the defendants excepted. And thereupon the court, having heard the evidence and the argument of counsel, rendered a final decree adjudging that W. D. Hardin was indebted to B. P. Boyd, administrator of Ware, in the sum of $17,150 on the purchase money for the lands, and that complainants have a lien thereon for its payment, relating back to the date of the title bond. The deeds from L. B. Hardin, administrator, to W. D. Hardin, and from the latter to his wife, were cancelled for fraud, and the land ordered to be sold in satisfaction of the lien, no sale, however, to take place until the heirs of Ware should file in court a warranty deed for the lands. The court refused to give a personal decree for the balance of the purchase money, "the same being barred by the statute of limitations." Subsequently, the heirs of Ware filed the required deed in court, and the decree was made absolute.

Hardin appealed to this Court. After the appeal was perfected, he departed this life, and by consent it was revived in the name of Mrs. Hardin, as his administratrix. After the submission of the cause here, the heirs at law of Hardin appeared, and by consent they were made co-appellants without opening the submission.

Page 113 U. S. 761

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