Landsdale v. Smith,
106 U.S. 391 (1882)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Landsdale v. Smith, 106 U.S. 391 (1882)

Landsdale v. Smith

Decided December 18, 1882

106 U.S. 391


A bill is bad on demurrer when it appears therefrom that there have been unreasonable delay and laches on the part of the complainant or those under whom he claims in asserting the rights which he seeks to enforce.

By duly recorded deed of July 18, 1818, signed by John P. Van Ness (his wife uniting in the conveyance) and by Noah Stinchcomb, the former conveyed to the latter at a fixed annual rent lot 3, square 455, in the City of Washington, to have and to hold &c., unto Stinchcomb, his executors, administrators, and assigns, for the term of ninety years, renewable forever. Stinchcomb entered under the deed, made valuable improvements upon the lot, and remained in possession until the year 1833 or 1884, when Van Ness repossessed himself of the premises in virtue of a clause in the deed in these words:

"Provided always that if the said rent or any part thereof shall be in arrear and unpaid for the space of thirty days next after the time at which the same is reserved to be paid as above, being first lawfully demanded, that then it shall and may be lawful to and for the said John, his heirs and assigns, into the demised premises or any part thereof, in the name of the whole, to reenter, and the same to have again, repossess, occupy, and enjoy as in his or their former estate until all such arrearages of rent, with legal interest from the time at which said rent shall have become payable, and all and every cost, charge, and expense incurred by reason of the nonpayment of said rent shall be lawfully satisfied and paid, or make distress therefor at his or their option."

Stinchcomb died on the 11th of February, 1841, without, so far as the bill discloses, making any effort to repossess himself of the property. Van Ness died in 184-, and, upon the division of his estate, the lot in question was assigned to Matilda E. Van Ness, one of his heirs-at-law, under whom and her assigns the defendants hold it.

The complainant, as administratrix of Stinchcomb, having offered and now offering to pay all rents, interest, charges, and

Page 106 U. S. 392

costs which may have accrued upon the property, filed her bill wherein she asks a decree permitting her to redeem the same, and ordering an account, which will show, as well the principal and interest of rents in arrear due defendants as the rents and profits received by the latter since they entered into possession, setting off the one against the other.

Such is substantially the case made, and such the relief asked, notwithstanding forty-five years have elapsed since the reentry of Van Ness, "as in his . . . former estate," and more than thirty since his death and the assignment of the lot in question to one of his heirs-at-law.

The court dismissed, on demurrer, the bill, and the complainant appealed here.

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