Searl v. School District No. 2 in Lake County - 133 U.S. 553 (1890)
U.S. Supreme Court
Searl v. School District No. 2 in Lake County, 133 U.S. 553 (1890)
Searl v. School District No. 2 in Lake County
Submitted January 10, 1890
Decided March 3, 1890
133 U.S. 553
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED
STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
A tract of land in Leadville, Colorado, was deemed by the municipal authorities to be the most convenient and proper situation for the erection of a school house, which had become a necessity in that part of the town. The person in possession claimed under what was known as a squatter title. Another person laid claim to it under a placer patent from the United States. Both claims of title were known to the authorities, and were submitted by them in good faith to counsel for advice. The counsel advised them that the squatter title was good, and on the faith of that advice, they purchased the lot from the person in possession, and built a school house upon it at a cost of $40,000. The claimant under the placer title brought an action of ejectment to recover possession. The municipal authorities, being satisfied that he must prevail, filed their bill in equity to enjoin him from proceeding to judgment in his action at law, and commenced proceedings under a statute of the state for condemnation of the tract for public use. The plaintiff in the ejectment suit appeared in the condemnation proceedings, and claimed to recover from the municipality the value of the improvements as well as the value of the land as it was when acquired by the municipality, and, being a citizen of Kansas, had the cause removed, on the ground of diverse citizenship, into the circuit court of the United States. It was there agreed that the value of the property, without the improvements, was $3,000, and the court instructed the jury that they should find "that the value of said property at this date is $3,000." Held that this instruction was correct.
No vested right is impaired by giving to an occupant of land, claiming title and believing himself to be the owner, the value of improvements made by him under that belief, when ousted by the legal owner under an adverse title.