Ormsby v. Webb - 134 U.S. 47 (1890)


U.S. Supreme Court

Ormsby v. Webb, 134 U.S. 47 (1890)

Ormsby v. Webb

No. 179

Argued January 9-10, 1890

Decided March 3, 1890

134 U.S. 47

Syllabus

An order in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia at special term, admitting a writing to probate and record as the will of a deceased person, in conformity with the findings of the jury empanelled in the same court to try the issue of will or no will, is one involving the merits of the proceeding, and, may be reviewed by the same court in general term, and such review will bring before the general term all the questions arising upon bills of exceptions taken at the trial before the jury, and if the value of the matter in dispute be sufficient, this Court has jurisdiction to reexamine a final order of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia affirming the order of the probate court and to pass upon the questions of law raised by such bills of exceptions.

Van Ness v. Van Ness, 6 How. 62, and Brown v. Wiley, 4 Wall. 165, distinguished.

In the trial before a jury of an issue made up in a probate court as to the incompetency of a deceased person, from unsoundness of mind or undue influence, to make a will, declarations made by the deceased to a witness that he received the bulk of his estate by breaking the will of his grandfather, who was also the ancestor of the caveators, and that his estate consisted in a great degree of that property and its accumulations, and also declarations of one of the legatees, made about, or after the date of the execution of the alleged will, that she had knowledge at that time of the execution of the will and of its provisions, should be excluded from the jury.

On the trial of that issue, it was proper for the jury to consider whether the undue influence alleged to have been exercised by a particular legatee in

Page 134 U. S. 48

respect to other matters extended to or controlled the execution of the will, and give it such weight as they might deem proper.

An instruction to the jury at such trial that if they should believe the evidence of a witness named, they must find for the will, while apparently objectionable, as giving undue prominence to the testimony of that witness, was held, in view of the scope of her evidence, not to have been erroneous.

The case is stated in the opinion.



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