Last Chance Mining Co. v. Tyler Mining Co. - 157 U.S. 683 (1895)
U.S. Supreme Court
Last Chance Mining Co. v. Tyler Mining Co., 157 U.S. 683 (1895)
Last Chance Mining Company v. Tyler Mining Company
Argued March 6-7, 1895
Decided April 15, 1895
157 U.S. 683
When the course of a mineral vein is across a claim, instead of in the direction of its length, the side lines of the location of the claim become, in law, the end lines, and the end lines become the side lines.
When the jurisdiction of a controversy by a court is unquestioned, and the cause proceeds to final judgment, and no review is sought for, the judgment is conclusive upon the parties to the suit as to the matters decided, but not as to matters which might have been decided, but were not.
In an action brought under the provisions of Rev.Stat. §§ 2324-2325 by an adverse claimant to a part of a mineral claim as located, the plaintiff alleged a priority of location and rested his right to recover upon it. The defendant answered, but subsequently and before judgment withdrew his answer and amended his application for a patent so as to exclude the tract in controversy. At the trial, the defendant did not appear, but the plaintiff introduced evidence, oral and documentary. The court made a finding of fact that the tract in controversy had already been located by the plaintiff as a part of his mining claim when the defendant located his claim upon it, and that consequently it was not subject to location by the defendant. Upon that finding, it was adjudged that, by reason of the law and premises, the plaintiff was the owner of the disputed tract, that he was entitled to the possession of it, and that he recover possession of it from the defendant.
(1) That it appeared by the record that the court had in that case passed upon and determined the question of priority of location,
and upon such determination had given judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
(2) That the defendant's withdrawal of his answer did not operate to take the complaint out of the case or the allegations of fact contained in it or to prevent a judicial determination of those facts.
(3) That the abandonment of his claim by the defendant did not take the jurisdiction for the settlement of the question out of the hands of the court or restore it to the Land Department.
(4) That the judgment of the court was in all respects regular, was conclusive as to the particular ground in controversy, and was binding by way of estoppel as to every fact necessarily determined by it, including the question of priority of location.
Findings of fact in such cases, even when no statute provides for making them, are a declaration by the court of the matter which it determines, and are conclusive as to it in subsequent controversies between the parties.
A judgment by default is just as conclusive an adjudication between the parties of whatever is essential to support the judgment as one rendered after answer and contest, and in such case, facts are not open to further controversy if they are necessarily at variance with the judgment on the pleadings.
In view of the conclusions reached, it is not necessary to consider what extraterritorial rights (if any) exist when a vein enters at an end line and passes out at a side line.
On August 8, 1891, the Tyler Mining Company brought its action in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Idaho to recover of the Last Chance Mining Company and others the possession of a certain portion of a mineral vein, as well as the value of the ores theretofore taken from the vein by the defendants. After disclaimer by two, and answer by the Last Chance Mining Company and other defendants, the case came on for trial. In this there was a verdict and judgment for the defendants. This judgment was reversed on error by the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit, and a new trial ordered. 54 F. 284. At the February term, 1893, of the Circuit Court for the District of Idaho, the new trial directed by the court of appeals was had, and resulted in a verdict and judgment for the plaintiff. On error to the court of appeals, this judgment was, on April 2, 1894, affirmed, 61 F. 557, whereupon, on application of the defendants, the case as brought to this Court by writ of certiorari.
The following diagram, taken substantially from the first opinion of the court of appeals, fully illustrates the situation of the respective claims:
The controversy is between the owners of the Tyler claim and those of the Last Chance claim. As appears from the diagram, the Tyler claim, as originally located (1, 2, 3, 4), conflicts with the Last Chance claim (7, 8, 9, 10) in the triangular piece marked "A." On April 19, 1887, the owners of the Tyler claim made application for a patent for the entire claim as thus originally located. To this application the owners of the Last Chance claim filed, under the authority of sections 2325, 2326, Rev.Stat., an adverse claim to the conflicting ground, A, and thereafter commenced the required action in the District Court of the First Judicial District of
Idaho Territory. In that action the owners of the Tyler claim appeared and filed answer, but when the case was called for trial, the answer was withdrawn and a judgment entered in favor of the plaintiffs. No reason for this withdrawal appears in the record of the proceedings of the district court, but the testimony in this case shows that pending those proceedings the owners of the Tyler claim amended their application for purchase in the Land Department by excluding therefrom the territory marked on the diagram 3, 4, 5, 6, thus leaving their application only for the territory outside the boundaries of the Last Chance claim.
At the first trial in the circuit court, the record of this judgment in the district court was admitted in evidence for the purpose of showing that the Last Chance claim had priority of location over the Tyler claim. On review in the court of appeals, its admission was adjudged error, and by reason thereof the judgment of the circuit court was reversed. On the second trial in the latter court, the record was again offered, but was excluded, and this ruling was sustained by the court of appeals.
According to the original location of the Tyler claim, the lode entered through an end line, 1, 2, but passed out through a side line, 2, 3, and did not touch the end line, 3, 4. Under the amended location, it passed through two parallel end lines, 1, 2, and 5, 6. The amended application was accepted by the Land Office, and a final certificate for the tract, with the reduced boundaries, was issued to the owners of the claim. Within the vertical planes of the end lines, 1, 2, and 5, 6, extended, the ore bodies in dispute are found; and, the dip of the vein being in that direction, it was held that the owners of the Tyler claim were entitled to follow the vein on its dip beyond the side line (2,6), and took these ore bodies as a part of the vein thus followed.