Badger v. Badger - 69 U.S. 87 (1864)
U.S. Supreme Court
Badger v. Badger, 69 U.S. 2 Wall. 87 87 (1864)
Badger v. Badger
69 U.S. (2 Wall.) 87
Courts of equity, acting on their own inherent doctrine of discouraging, for the peace of society, antiquated demands, refuse to interfere in attempts to establish a stale trust except where,
1. The trust is clearly established.
2. The facts have been fraudulently and successfully concealed by the trustee from the knowledge of the cestui que trust.
And in cases for relief, the cestui que trust should set forth in his bill specifically what were the impediments to an earlier prosecution of his claim; how he came to be so long ignorant of his rights and the means used by the respondent to fraudulently keep him in ignorance, and how and when he first came to a knowledge of his rights.
Badger died in 1818, leaving a widow and ten children, one of whom only was of age at that time; the others being
minors, of different ages. One of them came of age in 1824; another in 1828; a third in 1831; a fourth in 1834; a fifth in 1835; a sixth in 1837. The eldest son, Daniel Badger, took administration on the estate in 1819, an uncle being joined with him; and soon after filed an inventory of the estate, its debts, and liabilities. In 1820, having settled on administration account, the administrators obtained leave from the court to sell certain portions of the real estate. None of these proceedings were the subject of question.
In 1827, they filed a further account, which had endorsed upon it what purported to be the written approval of the widow and heirs, the latter acting by their guardians. By this account, they claimed credit for several thousand dollars, alleged to have been advanced for the estate, and in 1830 got leave from court to sell as much real estate as would pay this balance. Public sale of the real estate was accordingly made; when it was bought by a friend of Daniel Badger, the administrator, and soon afterwards conveyed to him. The widow died in 1855, aged 74.
In 1858, James Badger, a son and heir, whose age did not appear, further than from the fact of the father's death in 1819 -- and one of the persons who by his guardian, now dead, had approved of the account of 1827 -- filed a bill against his brother Daniel -- administrator, as aforesaid -- in the Circuit Court for the Massachusetts District, charging that the account of 1827 was false and fraudulent; that the real estate had been sold beneath its value, and bought in for his said brother, the administrator; that before this purchase he had silenced the objections of some of the heirs who opposed the sale by purchasing their shares, and had forged, or fraudulently procured the signature of the widow, his mother, and in this way had obtained license from the court to sell. The bill alleged, that "the fraudulent acts and doings of the said Daniel were unknown to the complainant and his coheirs, until within five years last past," and prayed an account &c.
The answer of Daniel Badger, the defendant, denied the allegations of the bill generally; and, on the last point, denied
"that the complainant, or any of the said heirs-at-law of said intestate, did not have personal knowledge of all acts and doings of said Daniel (the administrator) in reference to the sale and purchase of these estates until within five years."
There was much testimony from different members of the family; the charges of the bill being more or less supported by the evidence of heirs who had sold out what rights they had to James Badger, the complainant below. Some of the witnesses testified that Daniel, the defendant, who bore his father's name exactly, had often declared that, being the oldest son and bearing the paternal name, he was entitled to all the property. One of the witnesses was a daughter, born in 1807.
The court below dismissed the bill as being stale. On appeal, the question was, whether this was rightly done?