237 P.2d 1017 (Okla. 1951), 34141, Correll v. Earley

Docket Nº:34141.
Citation:237 P.2d 1017, 205 Okla. 366
Party Name:CORRELL et al. v. EARLEY et al.
Case Date:November 20, 1951
Court:Supreme Court of Oklahoma

Page 1017

237 P.2d 1017 (Okla. 1951)

205 Okla. 366

CORRELL et al.


EARLEY et al.

No. 34141.

Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

November 20, 1951.

Page 1018

Syllabus by the Court.

1. Where owners of real property covered by restrictive covenants having for their purpose exclusion of persons of designated race or color from ownership or occupancy of such property, were willing to sell to Negro purchasers, who were willing

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to purchase, action of State court in the enforcement of such restrictive covenants would constitute acts of the State within [205 Okla. 367] the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and would deny purchasers equal protection of the laws.

2. Refusal of the State courts to enforce agreements with restrictive covenants prohibiting sales of property to persons solely because of the race or color of purchasers is not a denial of equal protection of the laws, since the Constitution of the United States confers on no person the right to demand action by the State which would result in the denial of equal protection of the laws to other persons.

3. In passing upon a demurrer thereto, a petition must be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff, and all facts well pleaded, together with all inferences which may be reasonably drawn therefrom, must be taken as admitted to be true for the purposes of a demurrer.

4. If a contract between lot owners in a given block of city property, despite its restrictive covenants, is valid between the contracting parties, and lot owners, and if defendants conspire to violate it, with knowledge and intention that, in so doing, they will cause damage to the plaintiff, and they consummate the scheme and cause the intended damage, defendants would be liable for such damages as plaintiff sustains, and it is error for the trial court to sustain a general demurrer to a petition alleging such conspiracy.

5. Record examined and held: that plaintiffs' petition as amended stated a cause of action for damages, and the trial court erred in sustaining a general demurrer thereto.

Robert W. Maupin, Morton Perry, both of Oklahoma City, and Denham A. Maupin, of Alexandria, Va., for plaintiffs in error.

Harry James, Edward Earley, both of Oklahoma City, for defendant in error Edward Earley.

A. L. Beckett, of Oklahoma City, for defendants in error Clarence Mayfield, Alberta Mayfield, G. Douglas Waterford and Hazel Waterford.

Hal D. Leaming, Rollie D. Thedford, both of Oklahoma City, for defendants in error E. T. Fent, Elizabeth Fent, I. W. Coulter and Carrie E. Coulter.

GIBSON, Justice.

The parties will be referred to as they appeared in the trial court.

This case was decided on demurrers to an amended petition, as amended, filed by plaintiffs wherein they allege ownership of four lots in Block 11 of Oak Park Addition to Oklahoma City, which they occupied as a homestead; that in 1926 they entered into a written contract with certain other property owners in said block wherein it was covenanted that no owner, his heirs, successors or assigns should sell, lease or give away any property in said block to any person of the Negro or African race. The contract further provides that any deed or conveyance made in violation of the agreement 'shall be void and may be set aside on the petition of one or more of the parties.' Said contract was recorded on May 6, 1926.

[205 Okla. 368] It was further alleged that defendants, on or about April 6, 1945, entered into a conspiracy to evade and destroy the effect and restrictive covenants of said contract with the wrongful, malicious and wilful purpose of injuring and damaging the value of plaintiffs' properties in Block 11; that defendant white owners of certain lots conveyed to defendant Earley, who was without financial responsibility, and that it was agreed that Earley was to encumber the property for as much loan as it would bear and then convey to Negroes, and that Earley did thereafter convey to certain named defendants who were Negroes.

It was further alleged that plaintiffs had been put to the expense of $1,000 attorney fees to enforce the covenants of the contract and that by reason of the wilful, malicious and wanton acts of defendants they should be assessed with punitive damages in the sum of $10,000.

The first cause of action named defendants I. W. Coulter and his wife as the grantors

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to Earley, and defendants G. Douglas Waterford and Hazel, his wife, who were Negroes, as grantees in a deed executed by Earley.

The second cause of action named E. T. Fent and Elizabeth, his wife, as grantors to Earley, and alleged that he conveyed to Clarence and Alberta Mayfield, husband and wife, who were Negroes. The same allegations of conspiracy and the amounts of damages were set up as against the defendants in this second cause of action. It was further prayed that the deeds mentioned be cancelled and that judgment for the alleged damages be decreed a lien on the properties sold to the named defendants and that said properties be sold to satisfy the liens. Copies of the restrictive contract and all deeds mentioned were attached as exhibits.

Various motions and demurrers were filed by the several defendants, and plaintiffs assign rulings thereon as error, but in view of our decision we need not consider these assignments.

Plaintiffs filed an amended petition in amplification of the conspiracy charge. Later, plaintiffs filed an amendment to their petition and amended petition, The amendment contains the following allegations: 'That, not withstanding the contract named in said original petition, and the restrictions, solemn obligations and conditions therein set out; the defendants herein and each of them, entered into a conspiracy, and did conspire together, and with each other, with a total disregard for the rights of these plaintiffs, and all other property owners in the block described in said petition, to destroy the restrictions, terms and conditions of said contract, in the following particulars: That it is well known generally, and is, and was well known by the said defendants, and each of them; that the...

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