New Orleans v. Gaines' Administrator
138 U.S. 595 (1891)

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U.S. Supreme Court

New Orleans v. Gaines' Administrator, 138 U.S. 595 (1891)

New Orleans v. Gaines' Administrator

Nos. 1293, 1320

Argued January 15-16, 1891

Decided March 2, 1891

138 U.S. 595

Syllabus

This suit was commenced in August, 1879, and was brought against the City of New Orleans to recover the rents, fruits, revenues and profits of 135 arpents of land situated in the city from the year 1837 to the time of the accounting sought. This land had been purchased by the city from one Evariste Blanc in 1834, and afterwards disposed of to various parties except four or five blocks reserved for city purposes which were not in question. The city was sought to be charged with all the rents, fruits and revenues of the land whether in its own possession or in the possession of its grantees. In two previous suits brought

Page 138 U. S. 596

by Mrs. Gaines against the parties in possession, one against P. H. Monesseaux and others and the other against P. F. Agnelly and others, said suits being in the nature of ejectments, decrees were obtained for the recovery of the lands held by the defendants respectively, and references were made to a master to ascertain the amounts of rents and revenues due. The total of these rents and revenues found and reported by the master in the two suits was $517,049.34, which, with interest calculated up to January 10, 1881, amounted to the sum of $576,707.92. The bill further sought recovery for other and larger amounts, but it was decided that the recovery must be limited to the claims so reported on by the master, and the decree was reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings in conformity with the opinion of the court. A decree was accordingly made and entered in the circuit court by which it was referred to a master to take testimony and report as to whether the defendant (the City of New Orleans) was entitled to any, and if so, how much, reduction in the said decree of $576,707.92 by reason of any compromises and settlements of the judgments for rents in the said Agnelly and Monesseaux cases, made and entered into by the complainant and any of said defendants in said judgments for any less sums than the face thereof. The result of the inquiry was that settlements had been made, amounting to $220,213.16, which formed part of that gross amount, but that Mrs. Gaines had actually received only $15,394.50. The court below deducted this latter sum, and rendered a decree for $561,313.42.

Held:

(1) That the right of Mrs. Gaines to pursue the city was an equitable right, arising and accruing to her on the basis of her own claims against the said defendants and by subrogation to their equity to be protected and indemnified by the city.

(2) That the acts of settlement in this regard amounted to a declaration of the parties that Mrs. Gaines should exercise the equitable right which she possessed, and that the assignment was merely in aid of the equitable right, and might be available in a court of law.

(3) That the judgments were binding on the parties to them, and therefore were binding upon the City of New Orleans, which in most cases had assumed the defense of the suits, and had been represented by counsel therein; that it was right and proper to consider litigation as at an end in those suits, and that the judgments had passed into res judicata.

(4) That article 2452 of the Civil Code of Louisiana, which declares that "the sale of a thing belonging to another person is null; it may give rise to damages when the buyer knew not that the thing belonged to another person," does not affect the question here.

(5) That the grantees might be settled with so far as their personal liability was concerned without discharging the city or other warrantors, provided it was stipulated or shown to be the intention of the parties that the city or other warrantors should not be discharged, it being a general rule that discharge of a surety does not discharge a principal, and that rule being applicable here.

Page 138 U. S. 597

(6) That the death of a number of the defendants in the cases of Monesseaux and Agnelly who died before the remand of this cause from this Court to the circuit court on occasion of the former appeal and before the decree of reference by the circuit court upon the mandate from this Court without an attempt at revivor of the alleged decrees against the heirs or representatives of said deceased cannot benefit the appellant;

(7) That the appellant cannot at this stage of the case raise the objection that one of the judgments for rent was obtained after the death of the defendant in the suit.

(8) That the claim for the price of the lands and the claim for the rents and revenues of them can be prosecuted separately.

(9) That the claimant should have been allowed the costs of the suits against Monesseaux and others and Agnelly and others.

Ordinary courtesy and temperance of language are due from members of the bar in discussions in this Court.

In equity. The case is stated in the opinion.

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