Bates v. Bates, No. 16098.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtSTUKES, Justice
Citation48 S.E.2d 612
PartiesBATES. v. BATES et al.
Docket NumberNo. 16098.
Decision Date01 July 1948

48 S.E.2d 612

BATES.
v.
BATES et al.

No. 16098.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

July 1, 1948.


Appeal from Common Pleas Circuit Court of Greenville County; J. Robert Martin, Jr., Judge.

Action by Carl M. Bates against Mrs. Blanche S. Bates and another to remove cloud from title. From an adverse judgment, plaintiff appeals.

Affirmed.

Williams & Henry and W. E. Bowen, all of Greenville, for appellant.

W. W. Wilkins and C. S. Bowen, of Greenville, for respondents.

STUKES, Justice.

Carl M. Bates and Mrs. Blanche S. Bates were married about twelve years ago. There are no children of that marriage. Both had been previously married, and Bates has several grown children, and Mrs. Bates has a daughter, her co-defendant in this action, who is about fifteen years old and lived with them. He is a machinist and he and Mrs. Bates were employed during the most of their married life, and one earned about as much as the other and both contributed to the purchase and maintenance of their several homes and to their living expenses. During the recent war they were employed for some years at the Charleston Navy Yard, and at another time, for less than a year, in

[48 S.E.2d 613]

Birmingham, Alabama, which was Bates' original home and where his father still lives.

For some time prior to the happenings which gave rise to this litigation Bates worked at Ballentine Machine Works near Greenville and Mrs. Bates was employed in a cotton mill and at other places. Years ago they purchased a lot together, taking title as tenants in common, improved it by the contributions of both and sold it, dividing the proceeds approximately equally. Thereafter they bought about sixteen acres of vacant land three miles from the city of Greenville for the sum of $3500, of which Bates paid $500 and Mrs. Bates $3000 and title was taken at his direction in her name alone. She bought some of the lumber and other materials, he about half, and thus together and contributing their joint labors, aided by her father, they erected a modest three-room home in which they lived. She possessed unusual capacity for manual work. Their relations were not happy and culminated in a serious altercation on February 10, 1947, and in the ensuing physical encounter Mrs. Bates and her daughter, Sara, received minor scratches and bruises, and Bates had a head wound which was inflicted with the back of an ax in the hands of Mrs. Bates, she claimed in defense of herself and daughter. It was necessary that he go to a hospital for treatment, after which he was dismissed.

He contends that he did not return to his home to stay until delivery of deed to him by Mrs. Bates on February 24th following, which purported to convey to him about five acres of the land, including the homestead. In contradiction, Mrs. Bates and her daughter and several neighbor-witnesses for them testified that Bates returned to the home on the day after the fight and spent his nights there as usual until the eve of the commencement of this action. The testimony concerning this fact and others is in violent conflict.

Bates brought this action in equity on June 2, 1947, for the purpose of removing an alleged cloud from his title which consisted of a deed from Mrs. Bates dated May 22, 1947, to her daughter, Sara, which purported to convey the same premises. It was alleged in the complaint that the property had been conveyed to plaintiff in consideration of $10, love and affection and other valuable consideration, and that the grantor's second deed, that to her daughter, was void for the reasons that the identical premises had been previously conveyed to plaintiff and that the second deed was without consideration and the grantee had knowledge at the time thereof that the land had already been conveyed to the plaintiff.

Mrs. Bates answered, denying the alleged deed to her husband and alleged that when she bought the property it was in her name despite her husband's demand that it be conveyed jointly to him and her, and that he repeatedly thereafter made demands that she convey a portion of the property to him and that upon her refusal he became hostile, abused and occasionally struck her; that she had the deed of February 24th to him prepared and she executed it and withheld delivery, but about two weeks thereafter he steathily took it from her purse and refused upon demand to re-deliver it to her; that it is void for lack of consideration and delivery; wherefore, the prayer was for dismissal of the complaint and that the deed be adjudged void and cancelled of record.

The defendant, Sara Salter, through her guardian ad litem, answered separately in similar vein and set up the deed of May 22, 1947, by her mother to her; that the deed of her mother to Bates was procured by coercion and executed for the purpose of meeting the emergency of further effort by Bates to compel his wife (her mother) to convey the property to him, and that he found the deed in its hiding place, and thereafter hid it himself until it was recorded on May 29, 1947; that plaintiff's claim constitutes a cloud upon the title of the answering defendant, wherefore she is entitled to have the deed to plaintiff cancelled.

As already indicated, upon general order of reference to the Master he took the voluminous testimony which was presented by plaintiff and defendants at several hearings and he concluded that after the difficulty of February 10, 1947, the plaintiff

[48 S.E.2d 614]

went and stayed successively at a tourist camp and a hotel; and engaged a room in a private home for the following week, which latter he never occupied because on the day of his intended move he was telephoned at his work by his wife who met him at an appointed place in the city and delivered to him the deed, whereupon they became reconciled and both returned to their home in his automobile; that thereafter, on May 22, 1947, she executed deed to her daughter of the same property, which was without consideration and therefore an attempt to give the property to her daughter who then knew of the execution and delivery of the prior deed to Bates, and Sara was not a subsequent purchaser for value, without notice, and the title having before that been conveyed by Mrs. Bates, she was without power to convey it again and the second deed was void. The Master further found that the deed of February 24th to Bates was free and voluntary and executed without coercion. Recommendation was made accordingly that a decree should issue declaring that deed valid and the deed to Sara void.

The exceptions to the report of the Master were in great detail as to the factual findings but that upon which the decision principally turned in the circuit court was the twenty-ninth, which was as follows:

"The Master erred in failing to find that the burden of overcoming the presumption that the title deed from Mrs. Bates to Bates, being without consideration, was void because of undue influence over Mrs. Bates, and abuse by him of the trust relationship existing between husband and wife, had not been met, and because there is no evidence to show that Mrs. Bates had been fully advised of the effect and consequences of the execution and delivery of the title deed."

The report of the Master was reversed by the Court for the failure of it to give weight to the presumption in equity against the validity of a voluntary conveyance from wife to husband. 30 C.J. page 696, 41 C.J. S., Husband and Wife, § 148. The judgment was for cancellation of the deed from Mrs. Bates to Bates and that the subsequent deed from her to her daughter is valid.

The appeal of Bates to this Court is upon numerous exceptions which are presented in appellant's brief as raising three questions, stated as follows:

I. Did plaintiff's evidence show, as a matter of law, that the deed of Blanche S. Bates to Carl M. Bates, dated February 24, 1947, was executed and delivered as the result of coercion, duress or undue influence exercised by him upon her?

II. Was there consideration for the deed dated February 24, 1947?

III. Is the deed to Sarah J. Salter dated May 22, 1947, valid?

The first of these, upon the answer to which the case turns, contains an inept clause. The query is not what the evidence shows "as a matter of law." The court's duty is to examine the evidence in the light of the applicable law and determine whether appellant, who was the plaintiff below, made out his case by the preponderance or greater weight of the evidence and in compliance with the pertinent rule of proof in such a case. The court has jurisdiction, and therefore the duty, to find the facts in this, an equity, cause. Art. V, Sec. 4, Constitution of 1895.

The respondents submitted an additional ground for sustention of the judgment of the lower court, that the exceptions to the Master's findings of, fact should have been sustained by the trial court. It will not be necessary to separately consider the sustaining ground.

Summary disposition may be made of questions II and III. The only seriously contended valuable consideration for the deed under attack consists of the contribution by appellant to the cost of the tract of land and improvements, of which that in dispute is about one-third of the whole area. The contribution to the purchase price was $500.00 of the total of $3500; and it may be safely said from the testimony that appellant also contributed about one-half of the expense and labor which went into the improvements, including the little home. But the title to the property was in the wife's name, of which appellant had complete knowledge, indeed he directed it so. In these circumstances, the law is settled that the part of the pur-

[48 S.E.2d 615]

chase price and the improvements contributed by appellant, the owner's husband, are presumed to be gifts to his wife, and there is nothing in the evidence in this case to rebut the presumption. 41 C.J. S., Husband and Wife, § 153, page 626; Caulk v. Caulk, 211 S.C. 57, 43 S.E.2d 600, and authorities there cited.

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7 practice notes
  • Bohn v. Bohn, No. 15610
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Civil Appeals of Texas
    • May 7, 1970
    ...the wife had competent independent advice is deemed most important, and, in some jurisdictions, decisive. Bates v. Bates, 213 S.C. 26, 48 S.E.2d 612 (1948); Peyton v. William C. Peyton Corporation, These rules apply generally to cases where a confidential relationship is established by evid......
  • Green v. Green, No. 17727
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 15, 1960
    ...57, 43 S.E.2d 600; Legendre et al. v. South Carolina Tax Commission, 215 S.C. 514, 56 S.E.2d 336; Bates v. Bates et al., 213 S.C. 26, 48 S.E.2d 612. In this case the appellant directed that title to the original house and lot be placed in the joint names of the parties, even though the appe......
  • Stevens v. Stevens, No. 18191
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 31, 1964
    ...it is in her name, as set forth in the following cases: Caulk v. Caulk, supra, 213 S.C. 57, 43 S.E.2d 600; Bates v. Bates, 213 S.C. 26, 48 S.E.2d 612; Legendre v. South Carolina Tex Commission, 215 S.C. 514, 56 S.E.2d 336; Clanton v. Clanton, 229 S.C. 356, 92 S.E.2d 878; and Green v. Green,......
  • In re Thames, Bankruptcy No. 80-01082
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fourth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of South Carolina
    • November 2, 1981
    ...583 (1960); Legendre, et al. v. South Carolina Tax Commission, 215 S.C. 514, 56 S.E.2d 336 (1949); Bates v. Bates, et al. 213 S.C. 26, 48 S.E.2d 612 In the instant case, the defendants' evidence of their co-ownership of previous residences and the defendants' intention that the residence be......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Bohn v. Bohn, No. 15610
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Civil Appeals of Texas
    • May 7, 1970
    ...the wife had competent independent advice is deemed most important, and, in some jurisdictions, decisive. Bates v. Bates, 213 S.C. 26, 48 S.E.2d 612 (1948); Peyton v. William C. Peyton Corporation, These rules apply generally to cases where a confidential relationship is established by evid......
  • Green v. Green, No. 17727
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 15, 1960
    ...57, 43 S.E.2d 600; Legendre et al. v. South Carolina Tax Commission, 215 S.C. 514, 56 S.E.2d 336; Bates v. Bates et al., 213 S.C. 26, 48 S.E.2d 612. In this case the appellant directed that title to the original house and lot be placed in the joint names of the parties, even though the appe......
  • Stevens v. Stevens, No. 18191
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 31, 1964
    ...it is in her name, as set forth in the following cases: Caulk v. Caulk, supra, 213 S.C. 57, 43 S.E.2d 600; Bates v. Bates, 213 S.C. 26, 48 S.E.2d 612; Legendre v. South Carolina Tex Commission, 215 S.C. 514, 56 S.E.2d 336; Clanton v. Clanton, 229 S.C. 356, 92 S.E.2d 878; and Green v. Green,......
  • In re Thames, Bankruptcy No. 80-01082
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fourth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of South Carolina
    • November 2, 1981
    ...583 (1960); Legendre, et al. v. South Carolina Tax Commission, 215 S.C. 514, 56 S.E.2d 336 (1949); Bates v. Bates, et al. 213 S.C. 26, 48 S.E.2d 612 In the instant case, the defendants' evidence of their co-ownership of previous residences and the defendants' intention that the residence be......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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