BRAINARD V. BUCK, 184 U. S. 99 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Brainard v. Buck, 184 U.S. 99 (1902)

Brainard v. Buck

No. 110

Argued January 15-16, 1902

Decided February 24, 1902

184 U.S. 99


The court below had power to authorize the amendment made to the bill. It is the settled doctrine of this Court that the concurrent decisions of two courts upon a question of fact will be followed, unless shown to be clearly erroneous, and in this case, after examining the evidence, it seems to this Court that the findings of the court below were justified by it, and that they established that a trust resulted in favor of Buck.

The above appellants seek a review in this Court of the judgment of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia in this case affirming a judgment of the Supreme Court of the District enjoining the appellants from the further prosecution of an action of ejectment brought by them against appellee Coleman in the Supreme Court of the District, to recover a one-fifth interest in a house and lot in the City of Washington, in the possession of Coleman as tenant of appellee Leffert L. Buck, who claims to be the owner thereof. The appellees, Buck and Coleman, commenced this suit in April, 1898, and in their bill of complaint they alleged the bringing of the action of ejectment on or about July 26, 1897, by William H. Brainard, as one of the heirs of his brother, the late Charles F. Brainard, to recover an undivided one-fifth interest in the real estate mentioned. The bill further alleged that the complainant Buck was the brother of one Cornelia A. Braninard, whose husband was Charles F. Brainard, both of whom lived in the City of Washington up to the time of the death of Charles on May 13, 1881, and the

Page 184 U. S. 100

widow thereafter continued to live in that city until her death on March 31, 1892. On June 12, 1872, Charles F. Brainard, the husband, made and executed his last will and testament, by which he devised and bequeathed to his wife all of his property of every kind and description for her own use and benefit. Afterwards and on July 18, 1879, there was conveyed to Charles F. Brainard by deed the premises in question. After the death of Charles F. Brainard and on March 31, 1882, his widow, by deed, duly conveyed her title to the premises to her brother, the complainant Buck. The bill then contained the following averments:

"8. The plaintiffs further show that the plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck, was the brother of the said Cornelia A. Brainard, and that her husband, the said Charles F. Brainard, was in his lifetime employed as a clerk in the Treasury Department; that he had little or no means of support outside of the salary which he received, and that the plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck, being willing to aid and assist his sister, and being solicited by her and her husband so to do, furnished and advanced the money to pay for the said property and premises first above described; that the said premises were purchased with money so advanced by the said plaintiff, L. L. Buck, in part directly to the said Brainard to pay for and on account of said property and in part to the wife of the said Brainard, and in part in taking up and paying encumbrances which had been put upon said property for the purchase price thereof; that said money was so advanced and said property purchased for the sole and only purpose of giving to the said Cornelia A. Brainard, the sister of the said L. L. Buck, a home, and that it was so understood by the said Brainard at the time of said purchase; that the said property was conveyed to the said Brainard instead of to his wife for the reason that, prior to said conveyance, the said Brainard had executed his will, by which said will he had devised and bequeathed to his said wife all of his property of every kind, and it was understood and believed by the said Brainard and his wife that, if she should survive him, the property would descend to her, and that in event she should not survive him, her said husband, she would have a home on said property during her lifetime,

Page 184 U. S. 101

and that, during said period, said Brainard should hold the title to said property as trustee for said plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck."

The bill then set forth the names of the surviving heirs at law of Charles F. Brainard and averred that some of them had quitclaimed the property to the plaintiff Buck. It is also averred that from the time of the death of Charles F. Brainard, his widow lived in the house, and that she conveyed the premises to Buck by deed on March 31, 1882, and that he believed that the legal title was in him until the commencement of the ejectment suit, when he was advised that the will of Charles F. Brainard did not convey the property to his sister, for the reason that it was acquired by Brainard after the execution of the will, which did not operate to convey after-acquired property.

For relief, the bill asked that the plaintiffs in the action of ejectment might be perpetually enjoined from further prosecuting the same, and that it might be declared that the land in question was charged with a trust in favor of, and ought to be held for, the use and benefit of the plaintiff Buck, and that the defendants, or such of them as should appear to have the legal title to the lands, should be decreed to convey such legal title free and clear of all encumbrances done or suffered by them or any or either of them unto the plaintiff Buck.

The defendant William H. Brainard demurred to the bill on the ground, among others, that the promise set forth in the bill was not in writing or signed by the deceased, Charles F. Brainard, and was within the meaning of the statute for the prevention of frauds and perjuries; also that Buck had been guilty of gross and inexcusable laches in bringing his suit.

The demurrer was sustained with leave to the plaintiffs to amend. Pursuant to such leave, the plaintiff served an amended bill, which was a full and complete bill, taking the place of the original, and restated all the facts set forth in the original bill, but left out the above quoted eighth paragraph. The complainants in the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth paragraphs of the amended bill made the following averments:

"9. That from March 12, 1875, until June 3, 1880, the said plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck, sent to the said Charles F. Brainard, for investment as agent for him, the said Leffert L. Buck, various

Page 184 U. S. 102

sums of money, the particular amounts of which and the dates at which they were received by said Charles F. Brainard, deceased, are stated in 'Exhibit D,' hereto annexed, and authorized the said Charles F. Brainard, as agent for him, the said Leffert L. Buck, to invest the same in real estate, bonds, and securities in the City of Washington; that, on or about the 18th day of July, 1879, the said Charles F. Brainard purchased the said property and premises hereinbefore described for the sum of $6,350, and paid on said purchase price the sum of $2,550 out of the moneys so sent to him for investment by the said plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck, as aforesaid; that, upon said purchase, the said Charles F. Brainard took the deed of said property to himself without the knowledge, consent, or authority of said plaintiff so to do; that said deed is the same deed hereinbefore mentioned as 'Exhibit B;' that thereafter, and on or about March 12, 1880, said Charles F. Brainard made a further payment of $1,266.66 on said property out of said moneys so sent to him for investment by said plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck, as aforesaid; that, on the 8th day of June, 1880, there still remained in the hands of said Charles F. Brainard out of the said moneys so received by him for investment as agent for the said plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck, the sum of $793.58, no part of which has ever been repaid to or received by said plaintiff; that, on or about the 25th day of July, 1879, said Charles F. Brainard executed to John F. Waggaman and James A. Harban, trustees, a deed of trust on said property to secure payment of the balance of the purchase money then unpaid thereon, and that said deed of trust was executed without the knowledge, consent, or authority of said plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck; that, after the 8th day of June, 1883, and before his death, the said Charles F. Brainard made further payments on said property, not exceeding in amount the sum of $650, out of the said moneys so received by him from said plaintiff for investment as aforesaid, the particular dates of which payments plaintiffs are unable more definitely at this time to state, for the reason that the books and accounts of the Western Building Association, to which said payments were made, have been destroyed. "

Page 184 U. S. 103

"10. That, after the death of the said Charles Brainard, the plaintiff Leffert L. Buck was informed by his said sister, Cornelia A. Brainard, that she held the legal title to said property under the last will and testament of her said husband, which is the instrument hereinbefore mentioned as 'Exhibit A,' and that there remained unpaid upon said trust deed the sum of $1,971.81; that thereupon, and on or about the 17th day of March, 1882, said plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck, paid the balance due upon said trust deed, which was thereupon discharged, to-wit, the sum $1,971.81, and thereafter, and on the 31st day of March, 1882, the said Cornelia A. Brainard conveyed the said property to him by the deed referred to as 'Exhibit C,' and the said plaintiff, Leffert L. Buck, thereupon and on that day entered into and has ever since remained in undisturbed possession of said premises."

"11. And the plaintiffs further show that all of the moneys that were paid for the purchase of said property, including the whole consideration thereof, were paid by the plaintiff Leffert L. Buck."

"12. And the plaintiffs further show that not until after the said action at law No. 41,274, which is the suit of said William H. Brainard against James Coleman, had been brought had the plaintiff Leffert L. Buck any information that the legal title to said premises did not pass to his sister, the said Cornelia A. Brainard, under the will of her said husband, Charles F. Brainard."

The defendants demurred to this amended bill on the same grounds stated in the demurrer to the original bill, and also on the ground that a new and different cause of action had been set up in the amended bill from the one in the original bill. The demurrer was overruled, and the defendants thereupon answered, in which, among other things, they denied complainants' allegation as to the payments for the premises by Buck, and averred that the purchase money for the premises had been paid out of Charles F. Brainard's own funds in cash or by his notes secured by deed of trust, which notes were subsequently paid by Brainard.

Upon the trial, there was a final decree in favor of the complainants, and the defendants were enjoined from prosecuting

Page 184 U. S. 104

the action at law, and they were directed to convey, quitclaim, and release the real estate unto the complainant Buck, and in default of their doing so, it was adjudged that the decree then given should operate and stand as such conveyance, quitclaim, and release.

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