Leyson v. Davis
170 U.S. 36 (1898)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Leyson v. Davis, 170 U.S. 36 (1898)

Leyson v. Davis

No. 517

Submitted March 14, 1898

Decided April 11, 1898

170 U.S. 36

Syllabus

In a suit commenced in a court of the State of Montana by the administrator of the donor of national bank stock, no written assignment having been made, against the donee to compel the delivery of the certificates to the plaintiff, and against the bank to require it to make a transfer of the stock to the plaintiff, the donee set up that the gift was voluntarily made to him by his father in his lifetime, causa mortis, and on trial it was decided that he was the owner of such stock and of the certificates, and was entitled to have new certificates therefor issued to him by the bank, and a decree having been entered accordingly, it was sustained by the supreme court of the state upon appeal. Held that these matters. raised no federal question; that no title, right, privilege or immunity was specially set up or claimed by the administrator under a law of the United States, and. denied by the highest tribunal of the states, and that. the controversy was merely as to which of the claimants had the superior equity to those shares of stock, and the National Banking Act was only collaterally involved.

Page 170 U. S. 37

This was an action commenced by the special administrator of the estate of Andrew J. Davis, deceased, and continued in the name of his successor, Leyson, administrator with the will annexed, against Andrew J. Davis, Jr., and the First National Bank of Butte, in the District Court of the State of Montana for the County of Silver Bow, to recover 950 shares of the capital stock of the defendant bank, alleged by the administrator to belong to the estate of the deceased, and claimed by the defendant Davis, Jr., under a donatio causa mortis. The prayer of the complaint was that the claim of defendant Davis, Jr., to the stock be declared void; that he be compelled to deliver up the certificates, and that the bank be required to transfer the same on its books, and issue new certificates to plaintiff as administrator.

The answer of Davis, Jr., in addition to his defense, set up affirmative matter and prayed that he be adjudged the owner of the stock; that plaintiff, as administrator, and the estate, be decreed to have no right or interest therein, and that the bank be required to make the proper transfers upon its books to him. The bank answered that it was ready and willing to transfer the shares of stock to the party determined by the court entitled to the same.

The trial court found as facts, in substance, that in the latter part of December, 1889, Andrew J. Davis was, and had been for some months, seriously and dangerously ill, suffering from an ailment of which he died in the month of March following; that being so ill, and in view and expectation of death, but being of sound and disposing mind, he gave to defendant Andrew J. Davis, as a gift, the shares of stock and certificates thereof described in the complaint, and at the same time delivered the certificates to said Andrew J., who then and there received and accepted the same, and who has ever since said gift and delivery retained and held the shares of stock and certificates in his possession, and claimed them as his own; that the deceased had great affection for and confidence in defendant Andrew J., and at the time of the gift of the stock and certificates, and for several years prior thereto, it was and had been the intention of the deceased to give the stock and

Page 170 U. S. 38

certificates to said Andrew J.; that there was no written assignment of the stock or certificates, or power of attorney executed by deceased in connection with the gift, nor any written authority empowering Andrew J., or any other person for him, to transfer the stock and certificates on the books of the bank during the lifetime of the donor, and that there was no transfer made on the books of the bank to Andrew J.; that no other gift than the gift of the stock was made, or attempted to be made, by the deceased to Andrew J.; that the gift of the stock was an absolute gift, and was a valid gift causa mortis, and that defendant Andrew J. had ever since held possession and exercised control and dominion over the stock, with the knowledge of the donor to the time of his death, arising and resulting only from the fact of the gift and the donee's possession. It was therefore concluded that defendant Andrew J. Davis was the owner of the stock and certificates described in the complaint, and entitled to have the shares transferred to him on the books of the bank, and to have new certificates issued to him therefore; that the donor was divested of his possession, dominion, and control of said shares of stock by the gift; that the plaintiff, as administrator, had not, nor had the estate of the deceased, any right, title, or claim in or to the shares of stock or certificates, and that defendant Andrew J. was entitled to a decree in accordance with the prayer of his answer.

The decree was accordingly so entered. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Montana reviewed the facts and the law at length, and elaborately discussed the authorities both in England and in this country, sustained the claim of defendant Davis to the stock, and affirmed the decree. 17 Mont. 220.

A writ of error from this Court was thereafter allowed, and motions made to dismiss or affirm.

Page 170 U. S. 39

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