Bd. of Sch. Com'rs of Indianapolis v. Ctr. Tp. of Marion Cnty.

Citation42 N.E. 808,143 Ind. 391
Decision Date23 January 1896
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana


Appeal from superior court, Marion county; J. W. Harper, Judge.

Suit by the board of school commissioners of the city of Indianapolis against Center township of Marion county and others to recover possession of, and to quiet title to, certain real estate. From a judgment in favor of defendants, plaintiff appeals. Reversed in part, and affirmed in part.

Chas. A. Dryer, for appellant. Ayres & Jones and H. C. Allen, for appellees.


The appellant sued the appellees in the superior court, in a complaint of three paragraphs, to recover possession, and to quiet the title in appellant, of several parcels of real estate, on which had previously been erected school houses for the use of the common schools of said Center township, and to compel the trustee to convey the same to appellant, and which afterwards, and prior to this suit, by an ordinance of annexation of territory, had become embraced within the limits of said city. The defendant Center township, by Gold, trustee, answered by a general denial. Center school township answered in four paragraphs of so-called partial defenses, to each of which the court overruled a demurrer for want of sufficient facts. The appellant refusing to plead further, and standing by its demurrer, there was judgment rendered in accordance with the prayer of the complaint and of said answers, quieting appellant's title in and to said real estate; and it was adjudged and decreed that said Gold, trustee of said Center school township, or his successor in office, do execute to the plaintiff, the board of school commissioners of the city of Indianapolis, a conveyance of all the lots and parcels of real estate described in the complaint, upon the payment by said plaintiff to him, or his successor in office, of $4,821.48. And the court ordered, adjudged, and decreed that said plaintiff, the board of school commissioners of the city of Indianapolis, pay to said Center school township of Marion county, Ind., the said sum of $4,821.48. On appeal to the general term the ruling upon the demurrer to each of said answers was assigned for error. The general term affirmed the judgment of the special term, and the action of the general term in affirming the judgment of the special term is assigned here for error. Therefore the only question presented for decision is the sufficiency of the facts stated in the several paragraphs of the so-called answer to constitute the partial defense set up in each.

The first objection urged to the sufficiency of such answers is that, while they each purport to be a partial answer, yet they do not point out the particular part of the cause of action they seek to bar. Without spending time on a decision of the point thus raised, it is sufficient to say that the pleadings called “partial answers” were not answers at all, but were essentially different paragraphs of a cross complaint or counterclaim, and nothing else, setting up matters not in bar of the action, but asking for affirmative relief; and such relief was granted by way of a money judgment against the plaintiff, though all the relief asked in the complaint was awarded. This is the most favorable view for appellees that can be taken of these pleadings. The character of a pleading is determined by its averments, and not by the name given it. Searle v. Whipperman, 79 Ind. 424;Campbell v. Routt, 42 Ind. 410;Johnson v. Hosford, 110 Ind. 572, 10 N. E. 407.

The lot involved in the first paragraph of the complaint is alleged to have been purchased by the trustee for the use and benefit of the common schools of Center school township in 1870; the lot involved in the second paragraph of the complaint was purchased for like use by said trustee in 1873; and that involved in the third paragraph was purchased for the same use by the trustee of said township in 1880. The title was taken in the name of Center township, instead of Center school township; but the latter took possession, erected school buildings thereon from the special school revenues of the township, and said school corporation had ever since used the same for school purposes, until the annexation before mentioned. The first, second, and third paragraphs of the so-called answer are each addressed to one of the three paragraphs of the complaint, and the fourth paragraph of such answer is addressed to all three of the paragraphs of the complaint. The only difference between the several paragraphs of such answer or cross complaint, as we hold it to be, is that the first three paragraphs are addressed each to a different paragraph of the complaint, and the fourth is addressed to all of the paragraphs of the complaint. We therefore need not notice any but the fourth paragraph. The substance of the fourth paragraph of such cross complaint is as follows: That the real estate described in the amended complaint herein was purchased for the benefit of said Center school township, and the buildings erected thereon, and were paid for out of the special fund of said school township, as alleged in the complaint; that in order to purchase and so improve said real estate, and other real estate owned by said school township, used for school purposes, it was necessary to create an indebtedness, on account of said special fund of said school township, in the sum of $4,200; that the same has in part been paid, and the amount thereof remaining unpaid is $2,400; that the proportionate part of said indebtedness so owing by said school township on account of said fund, and which was incurred on account of said real estate in the complaint described, amounts to the sum of $8,000; that in the creation of said indebtedness the revenues of said township were necessarily anticipated; that only a portion of the school township was annexed to the said city, leaving about two-thirds thereof still outside of the limits of said city, and the taxable property in that part of the township remaining outside of said city is only about two-thirds of what it was just prior to the annexation, and in consequence thereof the revenues of said school and civil townships will be reduced one-third; that the plaintiff is collecting and receiving that portion of the revenue collected by law for school purposes for the portion of said township so annexed to said city, and in anticipation of the collection and use of which the said indebtedness was incurred by said township. Wherefore the defendants pray that said plaintiff, if adjudged to be the owner of said real estate, and entitled to a conveyance of the same, be required to take the same subject to its pro rata portion of the said indebtedness of the special school fund of said school township, and for all other proper relief. The theory on which this cross complaint or counterclaim is framed is that the plaintiff (the appellant) had the right to have the title to the school houses described therein vested in it for the use and benefit of the common schools of the city of Indianapolis, and that, because Center school township was in debt for a part of the cost thereof, the school city was bound to pay a part of that indebtedness proportioned to the amount of taxable property withdrawn from the school township by the annexation. The demurrer to the different paragraphs of the cross complaint therefore presents the question whether the annexation of territory to a city, which territory contains a school house and lot belonging to the school township from which the territory is taken, affords a cause of action in favor of such school township against the school corporation of such city, either for the value of such property, or for a part of any unpaid indebtedness of such school township incurred in either the purchase of the lot or the erection of the house. If there can be a recovery by the school township for any part of the unpaid indebtedness on account of the cost of such school building, in the absence of statutory authority, then no reason is perceived why there could not be a recovery against the city school corporation for the full value of the property, regardless of any indebtedness.

The question is not a new one in this court, though there is not perfect harmony in its decisions thereon. In Carson v. State, 27 Ind. 465, a school lot was purchased by the township of Hanover, situate within the limits of the unincorporated town of Hanover, in said township, in Jefferson county, and on which the township erected a school house for the use of the common schools of the township. Afterwards, in 1858, the town was incorporated. And it was held that the school corporation of the town of Hanover succeeded to the rights of the township of Hanover, and thereby became the owner of the school house and lot, and that the title thereto had therefore been held in trust for the school purposes, and that the legislature could change the trustee at any time. The next time the question came before this court was in Heizer v. Yohn, 37 Ind. 415. It was there held that “where real estate is purchased, and buildings erected thereon, for school purposes, by the trustee of a school township, with the proceeds of a special school tax, and subsequently the territory embracing such property is annexed to a city, leaving more than half the school township outside of the city limits, the title to the school lots and buildings still remains in the trustees of the school township, and the property may be sold by them.” While the latter case...

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7 cases
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Indiana
    • 6 Diciembre 1973
    ...hold title to such schools as trustees and the State has the right to change trustees by annexation at will. Board of School Com'rs v. Center Tp., 143 Ind. 391, 42 N.E. 808 (1896). The legislature may consolidate schools by resolution without notice to the voters or without any referendum o......
  • School Dist. of Oakland v. School Dist. of Joplin
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • 11 Marzo 1937 the township upon lands embraced within the corporate boundaries of said town. However, Board of School Commissioners of Indianapolis v. Center Township (1896), 143 Ind. 391, 398, 42 N.E. 808, 810, states the distinguishment in the Leesburgh case "was practically a mild way of overruling......
  • School Dist. of Oakland v. School Dist. of Joplin
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • 11 Marzo 1937
    ... ... Board of School Commissioners of Indianapolis v. Center ... Township (1896), 143 Ind. 391, ... ...
  • Sansberry v. Hughes
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • 1 Noviembre 1910
    ...v. Spencer, 2 Ind. 486;Dale v. Frisbie, 59 Ind. 530;Flinn v. Parsons, 60 Ind. 573, 576;Smith v. Bryan, 74 Ind. 515;Board v. Center Tp., 143 Ind. 391, 403, 42 N. E. 808;Kepler v. Rinehart, 162 Ind. 504, 70 N. E. 806; Cooley's Const. Lim. 346. A statute of limitations is peculiarly within the......
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