Taylor v. Longworth,
39 U.S. 172 (1840)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Taylor v. Longworth, 39 U.S. 14 Pet. 172 172 (1840)

Taylor v. Longworth

39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 172


Specific performance of a contract by T. for the sale by him of a lot of ground in the City of Cincinnati was asked, by a bill filed in the Circuit Court for the District of Ohio by L. The complainant in the bill had purchased the lot and had paid according to the contract the proportion of the purchase money payable to T. By the contract, a deed with a general warranty was to have been given by the vendor within three months, on which a mortgage for the balance of the purchase money was to have been executed by the purchaser. This deed was never given or offered. The purchaser went into possession of the lot, improved it by building valuable stores upon it, and sold a part of it. A subsequent agreement was made with the vendor as to the rate of interest to be paid on the balance of the purchase money. The purchase was made in 1814, and the interest, as agreed upon, was regularly paid until 1822, when it was withheld. In 1822, the vendor instituted an action of ejectment for the recovery of the property, and he obtained possession of the same in 1824. In 1819, the purchaser was informed that one Chambers and wife had a claim on the lot, which was deemed valid by counsel, and in 1823 a suit for the recovery of the lot was instituted by Chambers and wife against T. L. and others, which was depending until after 1829. In 1825, this bill was filed, claiming from T. a conveyance of the property under the contract of 1814, on the payment of the balance of the purchase money and interest. The circuit court decreed a conveyance, and the decree was affirmed by the supreme court.

After the filing of the original bill, amended bill, and answers, the circuit court considered that C., who held a part of the lot purchased by L., should be made a party complainant, and be came in and submitted to such decree as might be made between the original parties. Held that this was regular.

There is no doubt that time may be of the essence of a contract for the sale of property. It may be made so by the express stipulations of the parties, or it may arise by implication from the very nature of the property, or the avowed objects of the seller or the purchaser. And even when time is not thus, either expressly or impliedly, of the essence of the contract, if the party seeking a specific performance has been guilty of gross laches or has been inexcusably negligent in performing the contract on his part, or if there has, in the intermediate periods, been a material change in circumstances affecting the rights, interests, or obligations of the parties, in all such cases courts of equity will refuse to decree any specific performance upon the plain ground that it would be inequitable and unjust. But except under circumstances of this sort or of an analogous nature, time is not treated by courts of equity as if the essence of the contract, and relief will be given to the party who seeks it if he has not been grossly negligent and comes within a reasonable time, although he has not complied with the strict terms of the contract. But in all such cases, the court expects the party to make out a case free from all doubt and to show that the relief which he asks is, under all the circumstances, equitable, and to account in a reasonable manner for his delay and apparent omission of duty.

The rule that the purchaser of property shall prepare and tender a deed of conveyance of the property to the vendor, to be executed by him, although prevailing in England, does not seem to have been adopted in some of the states of the United States. In Ohio the rule does not prevail. The local practice ought certainly to prevail and to constitute the proper guide in the interpretation of the terms of a contract.

The appellee, Nicholas Longworth, brought a suit, by a bill in the Circuit Court of Ohio for a specific performance of a contract made with James Taylor, for the sale, by Taylor to him of a lot of ground in the City of Cincinnati. Afterwards, Thomas D. Carneal

Page 39 U. S. 173

was made a party to the proceedings. The circuit court made a decree in favor of the complainants, and the defendant, James Taylor, prosecuted this appeal.

The facts of the case are stated fully in the opinion of the Court.

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