McIntire v. Prior
173 U.S. 38 (1899)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McIntire v. Prior, 173 U.S. 38 (1899)

McIntire v. Prior

No. 109

Argued January 4-5, 1899

Decided February 20, 1899

173 U.S. 38

Syllabus

The facts in this case, as detailed in the statement of the case and the opinion of the Court, show that a gross fraud was committed by the plaintiff's in error against the defendants, to dispossess them of the property in question, and in view of the peculiar circumstances of the case, the fraud, so glaring, the original and persistent intention of McIntire through so many years to make himself the owner of the property, the utter disregard shown of the rights of the plaintiff as well as of the mortgagee, the false personation of Emma Taylor, and the fact that the decree can do no harm to any innocent person, this Court holds that these facts do away with the defense of laches, and demand of the court an affirmance of the action of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia granting the relief prayed for by the plaintiffs below.

This was a bill in equity filed in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia by Mary C. Pryor against Edwin A. McIntire, Martha McIntire, and Hartwell Jenison to obtain the nullification and avoidance, upon the ground of fraud, of a certain foreclosure of real estate in the City of Washington.

The facts were, in substance, that in May, 1880, the plaintiff Mary C. Pryor, being the owner of parts of lots 21 and 22 in square numbered 569, conveyed the same by trust deed to Edwin A. McIntire, to secure the defendant Hartwell Jenison in the sum of $450 for money advanced by Jenison, which was represented by a note made by the complainant and her husband, Thomas Pryor, since deceased, payable one year after date, with interest at the rate of eight percent, payable quarterly.

Default having been made in payment of the note, the property was regularly advertised for sale under the deed of trust, and, after a week's postponement on account of the weather, was sold, on June 17, 1881, and bought in, nominally by Jenison, for $806; the difference between $450, the amount of the Jenison loan, and $806, the amount for which the

Page 173 U. S. 39

property was sold, being the taxes which had accrued on the property, together with the expenses and commissions attending the sale, which amounted, all told, to $839.19. In this connection, the plaintiff averred that the defendant McIntire had represented to her husband, Thomas Pryor, that the sale would be only a matter of form, and that he, Pryor, could buy in the property, and that time would be given him to pay the indebtedness; that sale was made without the knowledge of Jenison, the holder of the note secured by the deed of trust; that, as had been previously agreed, Pryor, the husband of the plaintiff, did in fact become the purchaser at the trustees' sale for the sum of $700, and the property was struck off to him; that they were not disturbed in the possession of the property for some time, when McIntire called on them and told them that they might pay rent to him, and that it would be applied to the payment of the principal of the debt, and that, accordingly, they paid rent until September, 1884 at the rate of six dollars per month, with the understanding that this would be applied to the liquidation of the note, and that, when the same was paid, the property would be reconveyed to the plaintiff. On June 29, 1881, a few days after the sale, a deed was executed to Jenison, for the nominal consideration of $806, and on the same day Jenison gave a new note to one Emma Taylor for the sum of $425, and secured the same by a deed of trust on the same property, the note being payable one year after date, with eight percent interest. Subsequently, and on April 21, 1882, Jenison conveyed the property outright to Emma Taylor, on receiving the $425 note.

Subsequently, and in May, 1884, Emma Taylor conveyed the property to Martha McIntire, the sister of the defendant Edwin A. McIntire. By reason of some supposed defect in the deed from Jenison to Taylor, Jenison subsequently, and on September 27, 1887, made a quitclaim deed of his interest in the property to Martha McIntire, who, in October, 1886, built four houses upon the property, two fronting on F Street, and two in the rear, facing an alley, of which she has had the use and enjoyment ever since.

Page 173 U. S. 40

Plaintiff's averments in this connection were that the sale by McIntire under the Jenison deed of trust was made in his own interest, with the fraudulent intent of getting possession of the property; that the $425 note given by Jenison to Emma Taylor, secured by a deed of trust, was fictitious, and a part of the same scheme; that Emma Taylor was a fictitious person; that the deeds to her were void; that the deed from her to Martha McIntire was also fictitious, and that the subsequent deed from Jenison to Martha McIntire, of September 27, 1887, was procured by the fraudulent representations of Edwin A. McIntire.

The prayer was that the sale under the deed of trust be set aside; that an account be taken of what was due by the plaintiff upon the note for $450, and upon the payment of the same that the plaintiff be declared the owner of the property, and that the trustees be required to account to her for rents, issues, and profits received by them on account of such property since the foreclosure sale.

The answer of Edwin A. McIntire denied all allegations of fraud and deceit; averred that the sale was bona fide in all respects; that he had no interest whatever in the property, and that it belonged to his sister Martha McIntire, who bought it in the regular course of business, and who, in her answer, denied that she participated in or had anything to do with any fraudulent scheme to get possession of the property, or that she had knowledge of any fraud on the part of her brother, and alleged that she was a true and bona fide purchaser of the property in dispute.

Jenison also answered the bill, stating that he had directed the sale to be made and the property bought in for him, if necessary for his protection; that he made the deed to Emma Taylor, as well as the quitclaim deed to Martha McIntire, and that he knew nothing whatever of any fraud on the part of Edwin A. McIntire.

Upon a hearing upon pleadings and proofs, the supreme court rendered a decree dismissing the bill, upon the ground of laches. Plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the decree of the court below, remanded the case to

Page 173 U. S. 41

the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, with instructions to take an account of the indebtedness due by the plaintiff to Jenison, together with an account of the rents and profits collected by the defendants, and directed that, upon the coming in of such report, a final decree be passed annulling each and all of the several trust deeds that clouded the title to said premises, and awarding possession thereof to plaintiff upon her paying the amount due Jenison, and to the defendant Martha McIntire, upon the statement of the account. 7 D.C.App. 417.

In compliance with these instructions, the Supreme Court subsequently entered a final decree in favor of the plaintiff for $1,664.93. and set aside the deed of trust from plaintiff and her husband to Edwin A. McIntire, and all the subsequent deeds, six in number, which operated as a cloud upon plaintiff's title.

Another appeal was taken from this decree to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decree of the Supreme Court, 10 D.C.App. 432, whereupon Edwin A. McIntire and Martha McIntire took an appeal to this Court.

Shortly after the commencement of this suit, four other suits were begun by Elizabeth Brown, Annie Ackerman, John Southey et al., and Joseph Hayne and wife, for similar purposes as the above, to procure the annulment of certain deeds or real estate to and from Emma Taylor, based upon her supposed fictitious character. The details of the fraud set forth in these bills were different, but in all of them the fictitious character of Emma Taylor was charged, and, in all of them but one, Martha McIntire purported to have become the owner of the property. For the purpose of saving the expense of repeating testimony, it was stipulated that the testimony in each of the cases, so far as relevant, might be read and considered by the court as having been taken in each of the other cases. The Court of Appeals entered a decree in each of these cases, except one, which was dismissed on the ground of laches, granting the relief prayed. The amount involved in the other cases, except the Pryor case, was insufficient to give this Court jurisdiction; but, upon the appeal to this Court,

Page 173 U. S. 42

the testimony in each of the other cases was brought up under the stipulation in the Pryor case.

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