18 D.C. 590 (D.C.D.C. 1888), 10,604, Virginia & Benter v. Patch

Docket Nº:In Equity. 10,604.
Citation:18 D.C. 590
Opinion Judge:Mr. Justice MERRICK.
Party Name:VIRGINIA ANN BENTER v. JOHN PATCH AND JOSEPH PATCH.
Attorney:Messrs. FRANKLIN H. MACKEY and JOHN CRITCHER, JR., for complainant: Mr. FRED W. JONES for defendant:
Case Date:December 10, 1888
Court:Supreme Court of District of Columbia
 
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Page 590

18 D.C. 590 (D.C.D.C. 1888)

VIRGINIA ANN BENTER

v.

JOHN PATCH AND JOSEPH PATCH.

In Equity. No. 10,604.

Supreme Court, District of Columbia.

December 10, 1888

          1. Courts of equity do not weigh testimony by the number of the witnesses alone. Circumstances and known facts may often establish the truth more conclusively than the oaths of the parties or the written depositions.

         2. A sale of real estate at a price so grossly inadequate as to shock the moral sense of any one to whom the facts are known will be set aside, especially where it is accompanied with evidence of fraud and misrepresentation.

         APPEAL from a decree dismissing a bill filed to obtain the cancellation of a deed of real estate alleged to have been obtained for a grossly inadequate consideration, and by fraudulent misrepresentations.

         THE FACTS are sufficiently stated in the opinion.

         Messrs. FRANKLIN H. MACKEY and JOHN CRITCHER, JR., for complainant:

         The consideration in this case was grossly inadequate, and comes fully within the characterization of Judge Story, when he says that between persons standing upon a precisely equal footing the inadequacy must be so great " that it must be impossible to state it to a man of common sense without producing an exclamation at the inequality of it." 1 Story, Eq. Jur., Sec. 346; Alove vs. Jewell, 94 U.S. 506.

          In Graffam vs. Burgess, 117 Id. , 130, it is said:

" If, in addition to gross inadequacy, the purchaser has been guilty of any unfairness, or has taken any undue advantage, or if the owner or party interested has been misled or surprised , the sale will be regarded as fraudulent and void."

         So in Kloepping vs. Stellmacher, 21 N. J. Eq., 328, Chancellor Zabriske, conceding that mere inadequacy of price would not alone justify the setting aside of a sheriff's sale, says:

" But when such gross inadequacy is combined with fraud or mistake, or any other ground of relief in equity , it will incline the court strongly to afford relief. The sale in this case is a great oppression on the complainants. They are ignorant, stupid, perverse and poor. They lose by it all their property and are ill fitted to acquire more . They are such as this court should incline to protect notwithstanding perverseness."

         A conveyance obtained for an inadequate consideration from one not conversant of his right, by one who had notice of such right, will be set aside, although no actual fraud or imposition be proved. 1 Sugd. on Vendors, 6 Am. Ed., 320; Osgood vs. Franklin, 2 John. Ch., 24; Butler vs. Haskell, 4 Desaus. 651; Evans vs. Luellyn, 3 Bro. C. C., 150.

         Mr. FRED W. JONES for defendant:

         The inadequacy in price must " be so strong, gross and manifest, that it must be impossible to state it to a man of common sense, without producing an exclamation at the inequality of it." Lord Thurlow in Gwynne vs. Heaton, 1 Bro. C. C., 8, and this has been followed by a multitude of decisions in nearly every State of this Union.

         " And unless some fraud is perpetrated, or some unconscientious advantage is taken of the improvidence or distress of the vendor, or of the relations of confidence between the parties, inadequacy of price is insufficient to vitiate an executed contract." Bailey...

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