Watts v. Waddle
31 U.S. 389 (1832)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Watts v. Waddle, 31 U.S. 6 Pet. 389 389 (1832)

Watts v. Waddle

31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 389

Syllabus

A decree of a specific performance of a contract to purchase a tract of land refused in consequence of delay and a defect of title.

The aid of a court of chancery will be given to either party who claims specific performance of a contract if it appear that in good faith, and within the proper time, he has performed the obligations which devolved upon him.

It is not in the power of one state to prescribe the mode by which real property shall be conveyed in another. This principle is too clear to admit of doubt.

In the argument before this Court, a new ground of relief was assumed which had not been made in the circuit court. That if the court should not decree a specific performance of the contract to purchase the land, yet as the purchaser had been in the possession thereof, the complainants are entitled to a decree for the rents and profits of the land while he was in possession. By the court:

"There is no rule of court or principle of law which prevents the complainants from assuming a ground in this Court which was not suggested in the court below, but such a course may be productive of much inconvenience and some expense."

Although there is no specific prayer in the bill to be paid the rents and profits, yet the Court thinks that under the general prayer, this relief may be granted. Under this prayer, only relief may be given for which a basis is laid in the bill. In this case, the possession of the land by the defendants is alleged, and the demand for rents and profits would result from this fact. There is no pretense that this demand was taken into view in the action

at law. As it consisted of unliquidated damages, it was not a proper subject for an offset.

In the Circuit Court of Ohio, John Watts a citizen of the State of Kentucky, filed a bill in chancery against John Waddle and William Lamb, the appellees, to obtain a perpetual injunction to stay proceedings by John Waddle on a judgment obtained in the circuit court against him, for damages for the nonperformance of a contract made by him with John Lamb in November, 1815, which contract had been assigned

Page 31 U. S. 390

by him to John Waddle, and also to compel Waddle or Lamb to a specific execution of the contract. The contract was for the sale of certain lots of ground in the town of Chillicothe to William Lamb, for which John Watts agreed to give a good and sufficient general warranty conveyance, by 1 February, 1816, or as soon as a final decree should be rendered in the circuit court of the United States, in a suit instituted to compel Nathaniel Massie and others, to make a conveyance to the complainant of the legal title to the said lots, the elder equitable title thereto being in the complainant. William Lamb, or his assignee John Waddle, was in possession of the premises at the time of the contract, and continued to hold the same until and after the judgment for the damages.

Numerous and continuing obstacles, arising, as was alleged, from other causes than the fault or laches of John Watts interposed and prevented the conveyance of the premises by a sufficient legal title until 1826.

In 1824, William Lamb assigned the contract between him and John Watts to John Waddle, who thereupon instituted the suit against John Watts he having been found in Ohio, and obtained a judgment for damages for the nonperformance thereof, amounting to $7,745.50.

In 1826, John Watts tendered to John Waddle, as the assignee of John Lamb, a deed of conveyance of the lots, in conformity, as was alleged, with the contract of 1815, which was refused by him.

The Circuit Court of Ohio dismissed the bill of the complainants, and the executors and legal representatives of John Watts thereupon prosecuted this appeal.

The facts of the case are stated more particularly in the opinion of the Court.

Page 31 U. S. 391

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