Long v. Thayer
150 U.S. 520 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Long v. Thayer, 150 U.S. 520 (1893)

Long v. Thayer

No. 471

Submitted November 27, 1893

Decided December 11, 1893

150 U.S. 520

Syllabus

T. bought a tract of land in Kansas City of S. & W. under a contract on their part signed by K. as their agent, under which payments were to be made at stipulated times, notes bearing interest to be given for those sums, and a deed to be given on final payment. The agent's authority from W. was in writing; from S., it was verbal. W. died shortly after the contract was made, and before any payment matured. T. went into possession, gave the notes, made payable to K. or bearer, made payments to K. as they became due, without knowledge of the death of W., and improved the property by erecting buildings upon it. On making the last payment, he was informed that W. had died. The interests of W. and S. became vested in L., who brought a suit in ejectment against the tenant of T. T. intervened in that suit and, his equitable defense being overruled, filed a bill to restrain its farther prosecution.

Held:

(1) That the death of W. revoked K.'s authority to act for him or his estate, and payments made to K. as his agent after his death did not discharge T.'s obligation to his estate.

(2) That whether it also operated as a revocation of the verbal authority given by S. may admit of some doubt, but is unimportant in view of the long silence of S.

(3) That in view of the character of the notes, and in view of the fact that L. was not an innocent purchaser, but took title with full knowledge of the facts, including the open, notorious and unequivocal possession of the property by T., the decree of the court below granting a perpetual injunction on payment into court of one-half of the purchase money with interest should be affirmed.

This was a bill in equity filed by Thayer to enjoin the enforcement of a judgment obtained by Long against one Townsend R. Smith, a tenant under Thayer, of a lot in Kansas City.

Thayer had bought the lot of Skiles and Western under a contract signed by one J. F. Kinney as their agent, dated June 30, 1870, by which, in consideration of $50 in cash, a promissory note at three months for $102.50, and another note at one year for $150, with ten percent interest, Skiles and Western

Page 150 U. S. 521

had agreed to give Thayer a deed, with a proviso that failure to pay either of said notes at maturity should forfeit the contract. A few days thereafter, and on July 9, 1870, Western died. Thayer took possession under his contract, and made all the payments as therein required to Kinney, but at the time the last payment was made (August 14, 1871), he was informed by Kinney that Western had died. At the time he made the first payment (September 13, 1870), Western was dead, but Thayer was not informed of it. After Thayer went into possession, he erected a frame cottage with the usual outbuildings and improvements, and remained in possession of the premises until the filing of this bill.

In 1885 or 1886, Western's widow married Long, the plaintiff in the ejectment suit, and Western's heirs, Lucy U. Western and Elgin U. Western, made a warranty deed of the land to Long, who shortly thereafter brought suit in ejectment against Townsend R. Smith, Thayer's tenant. Thayer, learning of the suit, intervened and was made a party defendant. He set up an equitable defense, which was overruled as inconsistent with the practice of the federal courts. Thereupon he filed this bill, and applied for an injunction to restrain Long from further prosecuting his suit. There was no evidence tending to show that any administrator or executor had been appointed for Western's estate or any guardian for his minor heirs, capable of receiving payment from Thayer. Skiles' interest became vested in Western by virtue of a partition suit and litigation over the title to the land in question, to which litigation Thayer was not made a party. These partition proceedings occurred in 1873, after Thayer had made his last payment.

Upon a final hearing, the circuit court decreed that, upon payment by Thayer into court of the sum of $126.25, with interest at ten percent from June 13, 1870, the injunction be made perpetual, and that the defendant place in the registry of the court deeds of the interest of the Western heirs, and a quitclaim of his own interest in the property in controversy to the appellant, etc. From this decree the defendant Long appealed to this Court.

Page 150 U. S. 522

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