Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. v. Penn Plate Glass Co.
186 U.S. 434 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. v. Penn Plate Glass Co., 186 U.S. 434 (1902)

Farmers' Loan & Trust Company v. Penn Plate Glass Company

No. 180

Argued April 24-25, 1902

Decided June 2, 1902

186 U.S. 434

Syllabus

This was a suit in equity brought by the petitioner in the United States Circuit Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, commenced to foreclose a mortgage given January 1, 1891, by The Pennsylvania Plate Glass Company upon its property in the County of Westmoreland and State of Pennsylvania, to The Farmers' Loan and Trust Company, to secure the payment of $250,000 of bonds then to be issued by the mortgagor company. A decree was entered by direction of the Circuit Court providing for the foreclosure and sale of the property and for the application of the insurance moneys as prayed for. Upon appeal to the circuit court of appeals, the decree of the circuit court was reversed as to the insurance moneys, and the court below was directed to enter a decree that those moneys should be paid to the defendant, The Penn Plate Glass Company. The material facts in the case are stated in the opinion of the Court. The only question involved arose from the provision made in the decree by the circuit court judge impressing what is termed an equitable lien upon the insurance moneys collected on the policies taken out by The Penn Company sufficient to pay any balance which may remain unpaid on the bonds secured by the mortgage to complainant, after the application of the proceeds of the sale of the property mortgaged. The circuit court held that the complainant had such equitable lien, while the circuit court of appeals was of the contrary opinion. Held that the judgment of the circuit court of appeals was right.

Page 186 U. S. 435

This is a suit in equity brought by the petitioner in the United States Circuit Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and the case comes here on certiorari to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The suit was commenced to foreclose a mortgage given January 1, 1891, by the Pennsylvania Plate Glass Company (hereinafter called the mortgagor company) upon its property in the County of Westmoreland and State of Pennsylvania, to complainant, the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company, a corporation of New York, to secure the payment of $250,000 of bonds then to be issued by the mortgagor company. A supplemental bill was filed, by leave of the court, which averred a loss by fire of a large portion of the premises mortgaged, and on the allegations contained in the supplemental bill the complainant asked that a decree should be entered granting to it a lien on the insurance moneys to the extent necessary to pay the bondholders the balance which might be due after applying to their payment the proceeds of the sale of the property mortgaged. A decree was entered by direction of the circuit court, providing for the foreclosure and sale of the property and for the application of the insurance moneys as prayed for. Upon appeal to the circuit court of appeals, the decree of the circuit court was reversed as to the insurance moneys, and the court below was directed to enter a decree that those moneys should be paid to the defendant, the Penn Plate Glass Company, Circuit Judge Acheson dissenting. The opinion of the judge of the circuit court, as well as those delivered in the circuit court of appeals, will be found reported in 103 F. 132.

The material facts in the case are as follows: the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company is a corporation of the State of New York. The defendant, the Pennsylvania Plate Glass Company (the mortgagor company), is a corporation of the State of Pennsylvania, organized for the purpose of constructing and operating plate glass works in the City of Irwin in that state. The defendant, the Penn Plate Glass Company, is also a corporation of the State of Pennsylvania, and is also organized for the purpose of constructing and operating plate glass works in the same city. The defendant William L. Kann is a citizen of the state

Page 186 U. S. 436

of Pennsylvania. On January 1, 1891, the mortgagor company executed to the complainant trust company a mortgage on its property in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, to secure the payment of $250,000 of bonds as therein stated. Among other things, it was provided by article 1 of the mortgage that, until default should be made in the payment of the principal or interest of the bonds secured by the mortgage, or in the performance of some one or more of the covenants, stipulations, or agreements required by the mortgage to be kept, performed, or done by the mortgagor, it was to be permitted to possess and operate the premises and glass works with the appurtenances described in the mortgage.

By articles 2 and 3 it was provided that in case default should be made in the payment of any installment of the interest on any of the bonds or of any of the coupons accompanying the same, or in the performance of any of the covenants, agreements, or stipulations contained in the mortgage and thereby required to be kept and performed by the mortgagor, and if such default continued for six months after demand made in writing, the mortgagee might take possession of the property, or foreclosure proceedings might be taken.

By article 4, the mortgagor is exempted from all personal liability for the mortgaged debt, and from the obligations of the other covenants contained in the mortgage, the article providing as follows:

"It being expressly understood and agreed by and between the parties hereto, and by and between the said party of the first part and the respective holders of the said several bonds, collectively, that no other suit or proceeding for the collection of any part of the principal or interest represented by the said bonds and coupons shall ever be commenced or prosecuted, either against the party of the first part, or any of its officers, directors, or shareholders, either by the said holders of the said bonds or coupons or any of them, or by any person or corporation to whom the same or any of them may be assigned or transferred, except such suits or proceedings as shall be necessary to recover the possession of the said premises thereby conveyed or to subject the same to the payment of the said debts

Page 186 U. S. 437

and that the sale of the said mortgaged premises, whether under the power of sale hereby granted, or any other power of sale, or by or under any judicial proceedings whatsoever, shall operate as a full and complete satisfaction and discharge of the indebtedness of the said party of the first part upon the said bonds and the coupons accompanying the same, and of the obligation of the covenants herein contained, whether the said premises shall be bidden in for the whole amount of said indebtedness or for a less price, anything in the said bonds and coupons or therein contained, to the contrary thereof notwithstanding."

It was provided by article 10, among other things, as follows:

"The right of action under this indenture is vested exclusively in the trustee, and under no circumstances shall any bondholder or bondholders have any right to institute an action or other proceeding on or under this indenture, for the purpose of enforcing any remedy herein and hereby provided, or of foreclosing this mortgage, except in case of refusal on the part of the trustee to perform any duty imposed on it by this agreement, and all actions and proceedings for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of this indenture shall be instituted and conducted by the trustee, according to its sound discretion; but the trustee shall be under no obligation to institute any such suit or to take any proceedings under this indenture, or to enter any appearances, or in any way defend in any suit in which it may be made defendant, or to do anything whatever as trustee until it shall be indemnified to its satisfaction from any and all costs and expenses, outlays and counsel fees, and other reasonable disbursements, and from all possible claims for damages, for which it may become liable or responsible on proceeding to carry out such request or demand. The trustee may nevertheless begin suit, or appear in and defend suit, or do anything else in its judgment proper to be done by it as such trustee, without such indemnity, and in such case it shall be compensated therefor from the trust fund."

"The trustee shall be under no obligation to recognize any person as holder or owner of any bonds secured hereby, or to do or refrain from doing any act pursuant to the request or demand

Page 186 U. S. 438

of any person, until such supposed holder or owner shall produce said bonds and deposit the same with the trustee."

"It shall be no part of the duty of the party of the second part to file or record this indenture as a mortgage or conveyance of real estate, or as a chattel mortgage, or to renew such mortgage, or to procure any further, other, or additional instrument of further assurance, or to do any other act which may be suitable and proper to be done for the continuance of the lien hereof, or for giving notice of the existence of such lien, or for extending or supplementing the same; nor shall it be any part of its duty to effect insurance against fire or other damage on any portion of the mortgaged property, or to renew any policies of insurance, or to keep itself informed or advised as to the payment of any taxes or assessments, or to require such payment to be made; but the trustee may, in its discretion, do any or all of the matters and things in this paragraph set forth, or require the same to be done. It shall only be responsible for reasonable diligence in the performance of the trust, and shall not be answerable in any case for the act or default of any agent, attorney, or employee selected with reasonable discretion; it shall be entitled to be reimbursed for all proper outlays of every sort or nature by it incurred in the discharge of its trust, and to receive a reasonable and proper compensation for any services that it may at any time perform in the discharge of the same, and all such fees, commissions, compensations, and disbursements shall constitute a lien on the mortgaged property and premises."

Many other provisions and conditions were contained in the mortgage, which are not material to be mentioned.

Most of the moneys arising from the issuing of these bonds were applied towards the construction of the plant of the mortgagor company at its place of business in the City of Irwin, Pennsylvania. The company soon got into financial difficulties, and about January, 1894, the defendant Kann became a stockholder therein and was elected its treasurer. By March 19, 1894, the company had become involved in litigation, and was very greatly embarrassed financially, and some of the other officers of the company had disagreements with Kann in regard

Page 186 U. S. 439

to his advances of money, so that, on the day last named, a bill in equity was filed against the company, in the name of some of its creditors and directors, in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, praying, among other things, for the appointment of a receiver of the property of the company, and for a decree winding up its business. In that suit, Joseph W. Stoner, the then secretary of the company, was appointed receiver, and such proceedings were had therein that, on or about June 18, 1894, the court made an order for the sale of all the property of the mortgagor company, and the same was sold at public auction to defendant Kann for the sum of $37,500, he being the highest bidder at the sale, which was open and public, and attended by others who made bids on the property. The sale was made subject to the mortgage to the complainant, and a deed was given by the receiver, pursuant to the order of the court, to Kann, the deed bearing date July 2, 1894, and reciting that the property was thereby conveyed

"subject to a mortgage made by said Pennsylvania Plate Glass Company to the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company of the State of New York, dated 1st of January, 1891, recorded in Westmoreland County in mortgage book No. 43, page 1,"

and being the mortgage or deed of trust made to complainant as stated. Kann continued in possession as owner of the property under this deed from the receiver until about July 1, 1895, when he conveyed, by deed dated on that day, all of the mortgaged property, together with the improvements made thereon by himself, to the defendant, the Penn Plate Glass Company, for a consideration named in the deed of $83,500. Kann in his evidence says the consideration really amounted to $118,000. The deed from Kann to the company also recited that the property therein conveyed was

"subject to a mortgage made by said Pennsylvania Plate Glass Company to the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company of the State of New York, dated 1st of January, 1891, recorded in Westmoreland county, in mortgage book No. 43, page 1."

While Kann held the property, he paid the interest on the bonds, but default was made in the payment of the coupons maturing on July 1, 1895, and no coupons have been paid since that time.

Page 186 U. S. 440

There was some insurance on the property when it went into the hands of the receiver in the suit which was commenced to wind up the affairs of the company, a portion of which insurance had not been paid for at the time of the appointment of the receiver, and he thereupon secured directions from the court to maintain the insurance, and for the purpose of paying the premiums thereon he issued receiver's certificates under the order of the court. Some, but not all, of this insurance was still in force when the receiver turned the property over to Kann at the time of the deed, July 2, 1894. This insurance expired by the lapse of time, and afterwards, and while Kann was in possession of the property under his deed from the receiver, he procured insurance upon his own interest therein and in his own name. These policies subsequently expired. The Penn Company when organized, and after it had purchased the property, took out insurance in its own name upon the same and for its own benefit exclusively, the amounts running from $250,000 to about $400,000, and the policies containing this provision:

"This property is subject to a bonded indebtedness of $250,000, but it is distinctly understood and agreed that this insurance does not cover the interest of the bondholders."

There was no insurance on the property during the time that the Penn Company owned it, other than as just stated, but that insurance was to an amount more than sufficient to secure the bondholders under the mortgage if the moneys were to be so applied.

While the property was in the hands of Kann and after the insurance thereon had expired, which had been procured by the mortgagor company or by its receiver, the mortgagee notified Kann and required him to keep up or renew or take out other insurance for the benefit of the bondholders under the mortgage, up to the amount thereof, and the same notice and requirement were given to and demanded of the mortgagor company. That company made default, and Kann refused to take out any such insurance, and denied that he was under any obligation so to do. After Kann sold and conveyed the property to the Penn Company, the complainant notified that company and required it to insure in a sum sufficient to afford security for the bondholders under the mortgage to complainant. The Penn Company refused

Page 186 U. S. 441

to so insure, and denied any obligation to do so, but, on the contrary, did insure for its own benefit, the policies of insurance containing the provision excluding the interest of the bondholders under the mortgage.

As stated, the mortgagor company, and also Kann and the Penn Company, defaulted in the payment of the coupons due July 1, 1895, and upon those due January 1 and July 1, 1896, and thereupon complainant commenced this suit by the filing of its bill July 8, 1896, asking for the foreclosure of the mortgage and making the mortgagor company, Kann, and the Penn Company defendants. On the same day, a motion for a receiver was noticed on the ground that the mortgage was not good security for the debt. The mortgagor company made default, and has not appeared in the suit. The other defendants duly appeared and opposed the motion. It was heard on July 20, 1896. Shortly after the motion had been argued, counsel for the complainant received notice from the judge before whom the motion had been made, stating that he had concluded to deny the application for the appointment of a receiver. Upon a subsequent day, the parties being in court (no formal order denying the motion having as yet been filed), the counsel for the complainant said to the court that, in the motion for a receiver, it occurred to him that the court had not considered the fact that this property was without insurance, that there was danger of fire, that the plaintiff was a trustee without funds, and that that was a matter that ought to be considered; that the trustee was entitled to insurance. Counsel upon the other side denied that they were bound to insure under the terms of the mortgage, and so the dispute continued before the judge, counsel for the complainant insisting that complainant should have insurance, and counsel for the other side denying that complainant was entitled to it at the cost of the defendants, and at the end the judge remarked that he could not then decide that question, but intimated to counsel for defendants that, if they were bound to insure, they ought to protect the complainant as trustee and mortgagee. Finally it was suggested that a bond should be given of the tenor now to be mentioned, but counsel for complainant stated, in his evidence upon the subject given in this

Page 186 U. S. 442

case, that he did not wish to be misunderstood, and that it must be admitted that counsel for the defendants, upon the occasion mentioned, expressly denied that they were bound to insure for the benefit of the bondholders; the bond or agreement was given just as its terms set forth, that, if defendants were bound to insure, the insurance would stand for the benefit of the complainant, and if not, the complainant would get nothing. The bond or agreement was then given by Emanuel Wertheimer and defendant Kann. It was put in evidence, and Wertheimer and Kann therein agreed

"that in the event of a loss by fire of the property described in the said Pennsylvania Plate Glass Company mortgage, that then there shall be paid out to the said Farmers' Loan & Trust Company, trustee, in trust for the holders of valid bonds secured by the said mortgage, a sum equal to the total amount of such valid bonds, out of the policies of insurance existing in favor of the Penn Plate Glass Company. Provided, that it shall have been finally adjudicated that the Penn Plate Glass Company, the present owner of said property, is bound or liable by anything contained in the said mortgage, or the terms of its purchase of the described mortgaged premises, to keep and maintain insurance for the benefit of the holders of bonds secured by the said mortgage."

This agreement was given, as counsel for complainant stated, in order to meet the views of the court "that, if I was entitled to insurance, I should have a bond, and if I was not entitled to insurance, I would get nothing."

By an interlocutory order, as mentioned in the decree subsequently entered, and grounded upon this agreement, the court appointed Emanuel Wertheimer as receiver for the purpose of receiving the insurance moneys under the various policies of insurance, and, pursuant to such appointment, Wertheimer was directed to hold, as such receiver, $125,000 of the insurance moneys so collected, and if it should be finally decreed that the complainant had an equitable lien upon such insurance moneys, then the receiver was to pay over to the complainant so much of that sum as should be necessary to pay and discharge the $90,000 of the bonds secured by the mortgage, not including the $160,000 of such bonds belonging to Wertheimer, in regard

Page 186 U. S. 443

to which he released and waived all claim to an equitable lien upon the said sum of $125,000 so collected and held by him, and he was also to pay to the complainant and discharge the coupons upon such $90,000 of bonds.

The formal order denying the motion for a receiver was filed September 7, 1896. Considerable testimony was taken in the case subsequently to that time upon the various issues made by the pleadings, but the trial had not been concluded, when on April 12, 1898, a fire occurred, by reason of which as claimed on the part of the mortgagee, the greater part of its security was destroyed. A supplemental bill was then filed by complainant by leave of court, and various insurance companies which had insured the property for the Penn Company were brought in as parties to the suit, and the complainant demanded, in addition to the relief which was prayed for in the original bill, a decree providing that the complainant should have a first lien on the insurance moneys paid or to be paid under such policies for the purpose of paying the bondholders holding the $90,000 of bonds as above mentioned, any balance which might be due them after the sale of the mortgaged premises should be made, if such sale should result in any deficiency in the payment of those bonds.

Testimony was taken relative to the averments contained in the supplemental bill. It was proved on behalf of the Penn Company that, since Kann and the Penn Company had the title to, and possession of, the property, there had been spent by them upon the property, by way of repairs and improvements, between $180,000 and $200,000.

The decree of the circuit court, after providing for the foreclosure and sale of the mortgaged premises, made specific provision for the application of the insurance moneys in the hands of Wertheimer to the payment of any deficiency that might arise, after applying the proceeds of the sale of the mortgaged property to the payment of the bonds mentioned in the decree.

Page 186 U. S. 444

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