Bryant v. Cadle

Decision Date05 October 1909
Docket Number599
Citation18 Wyo. 64,104 P. 23
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Rehearing Denied February 7, 1910, Reported at: 18 Wyo. 64 at 95.

ERROR to the District Court, Sheridan County, HON. CARROLL H PARMELEE, Judge.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Judgment reversed and cause remanded.

Lonabaugh & Wenzell, and Burgess & Kutcher, for plaintiff in error.

It is attempted by the defendant in error to attack collaterally the court proceedings relating to the land in controversy, in which proceedings a receiver was appointed and the land was first placed under his control and subsequently in the full unqualified and absolute control of the divorced wife of the defendant's intestate. Where such an attack is made upon court proceedings, every fact essential to complete jurisdiction is to be presumed unless the contrary affirmatively appears; and where jurisdiction exists over the person and subject matter an order or judgment is conclusive. This rule applies as well to interlocutory as to final orders. (23 Cyc. 1055, 1078, 1085, 1090, 1094; Van Fleet Coll. Attack, Secs. 705, 706-730.)

The trial court having held that jurisdiction was complete in the action for divorce, it is unnecessary to inquire into the prior proceedings. The finding by the court that Mrs Scrutchfield's acts in mortgaging and selling the property were independent of the orders of the court authorizing such acts because the instruments executed by her made no reference to the court orders, was outside the record and is entirely immaterial. But the presumption is that she acted pursuant to the order of court. (Freeman Void Judicial Sales, Sec. 9.) There being no evidence as to a report by her or an appraisement of the property before sale, or a confirmation of the sale, if any of those things were essential to a conveyance of title, that they were done will be presumed. (18 Cyc. 815; 23 Cyc. 1078, 1085; Van Fleet Coll. Attack, Secs. 805-830; 8 Ency. Pl. & Pr. 945; Lessee v. Armstrong, 8 Ohio 135; Smith v. West, 64 Ala. 34; Tipton v. Powell, 2 Coldw. 19; Moore v. Greene, 19 How. (U.S.) 69; Thomas v. Malcolm, 99 Am. Dec. 459; Smith v. Crosby, 40 Am. St. 818; Leger v. Doyle, 70 Am. Dec. 240; Evans v. Robberson, 1 Am. St. 701; Matt v. Edwards, &c., 79 A.D. 179.) But appraisement, report of the sale and confirmation was not necessary. Even had such acts been required, their absence is not fatal to title on collateral attack. (Van Fleet Coll. Attack, Secs. 664, 790; Lessee v. Parish, 3 O. St. 188; Neligh v. Keene, 20 N.W. 271; Noland v. Barrett, 43 Am. St. 572; Maple v. Nelson, 31 Ia. 322; Brown v. Butters, 40 Ia. 544; Davis v. Hoover, 14 N.E. 471; 17 Cyc. 1766; 18 Cyc. 809; 21 Cyc. 144; 24 Cyc. 32; 25 Ency. Law (2nd Ed.) 778; 12 Ency. Pl. & Pr. 70, 74; Wheaton v. Sexton, 4 Wheat. 503; Voorhees v. Bank, 10 Peters 477; Lessee v. McAllister, 9 O. St. 19; White v. Rand, 21 N.E. 97; Kimple v. Conway, 17 P. 546; Morrow v. Moran, 32 P. 770; Baxter v. O'Leary, 72 N.W. 91; Moore v. Neil, 89 Am. Dec. 303; Moore v. Green, 19 How. 69; Johnson v. Cooper, 56 Miss. 608; Miller v. McMannis, 104 Ill. 421; Smith v. West, 64 Ala. 34; Watt v. Scott, 3 Watts 79; Tipton v. Casey, 25 Mo. 584; Neill v. Cody, 26 Tex. 286; Moody v. Butler, 63 Tex. 210; Redus v. Hayden, 43 Miss. 614.) Cases which hold that confirmation of judicial sale is essential are under statutes expressly making a confirmation a prerequisite to the passing of title, but even then the equitable title may pass without confirmation, where the sale was made in good faith and in pursuance of a valid order.

So it is a rule generally that erroneous orders which are not jurisdictional will not render a sale void on collateral attack. (Blackman v. Mulhall, 104 N.W. 250; Lessee v. Moreland, 15 Ohio 255; Hughes v. Goodale, 66 P. 702; Hamiel v. Donnelly, 39 N.W. 210; Arrowsouth v. Harmoring, 42 O. St. 254; Palmer v. Oakley, 47 Am. Dec. 41; Seward v. Dedier, 20 N.W. 12; 17 Ency. L. (2nd Ed.) 1033, 1034; Hill v. Reynolds, 93 Me. 25; Exum v. Baker, 118 N.C. 545; 24 Cyc. 50; Menage v. Jones, 41 N.W. 972; 17 Cyc. 1344; 21 Cyc. 140; White v. Hinton, 7 Wyo. 54; Young v. Lorain, 11 Ill. 624; Sumner v. Williams, 5 Am. Dec. 83; Mitchell v. Hazen, 10 Am. Dec. 169; Worthy v. Johnson, 52 Am. Dec. 399.) Although the patent from the government vested the legal title in Scrutchfield, the equitable title vested in his wife, who made the final proof and continued after his desertion of her to reside upon the land and cultivate it. Under the issues the defendant made out a prima facie case (1) by showing a valid order of sale; (2) an actual sale in pursuance of the order; (3) a deed executed and possession delivered. (Paul v. Craig, 25 N.E. 538; Lytton v. Baird, 40 N.E. 1063; Milburn v. Sexton, 36 N.E. 360; Hibbard v. Smith, 6 P. 484; Ware v. Bradford, 36 Am. Dec. 427; Ferguson v. Miles, 44 Am. Dec. 702; Carson v. Huntington, 45 Am. Dec. 273; McEntyre v. Durham, 45 Am. Dec. 512; Owen v. Barkes, 47 Am. Dec. 348; Brooks v. Rooney, 56 Am. Dec. 432.)

Scrutchfield's cause of action, if any, accrued more than ten years prior to the commencement of the action, and therefore Bryant had acquired title by adverse possession. The trial court erroneously excluded the period of Mrs. Scrutchfield's possession. She had actual, open, continuous and exclusive possession of the land while she was in control, and the only question as to her possession is whether it was adverse. Her possession was not subordinate to any other person. She held it under the order of court vesting in her full, unqualified and absolute control for the benefit of herself and children, and the character of her possession was sufficient in view of its hostile nature and her claim of right to constitute her possession adverse. (1 Cyc. 1003, 1027; Lantry v. Parker, 55 N.W. 962; McAllister v. Hartzell, 53 N.E. 715; Bryan v. Atwater, 5 Am. Dec. 136; Fitzgerald v. Brewster, 47 N.W. 44; Roots v. Beck, 9 N.E. 698; Steel Co. v. Budzisz, 97 N.W. 166; French v. Pearce, 21 Am. Dec. 680; Patterson v. Reigh, 45 Am. Dec. 684; Limberg v. Hegenbotham, 17 P. 480; Tourterlotte v. Pearce, 42 N.W. 914; Murphy v. Doyle, 33 N.W. 220; Dawson v. Boat Club, 99 N.W. 17; Ranch Co. v. Babcock, 66 P. 878; Steel Co. v. Jeka, 95 N.W. 97.) It is immaterial whether any of the orders under which the possession of the land in controversy was controlled were valid or not. Scrutchfield could have maintained an action against the receiver and also against Mrs. Scrutchfield at any time while they were in possession. When Mrs. Scrutchfield executed a mortgage upon the land, she thereby asserted and adverse right to it; and the same is true with respect to the execution by her of the warranty deed conveying the land. Whether the orders were valid or not, Mrs. Scrutchfield recognized them as valid and under them claimed a right and title adverse to Scrutchfield. (Warr v. Honeck, 29 P. 1117.) It is immaterial also that Mrs. Scrutchfield acknowledged in her petitions filed in court that the legal title to the land was in Scrutchfield. Her possession could nevertheless be adverse. (McAllister v. Hartzell, supra.)

Scrutchfield was estopped by his conduct from disputing the title of Bryant. He had deserted his wife and family and abandoned the land in 1889, and did not return to that county until about seventeen years thereafter, and during his absence he paid no taxes and did nothing whatever to show that he claimed any interest in the land. Nothing prevented him from knowing the conditions under which the land was being held by others, whose possession was at all times open and notorious. Indeed, he told the receiver as early as 1890 that he never intended to return. (18 Ency. Law (2nd Ed.) 97, 100, 105, 113-114, 109; 16 Cyc. 150, 160, 171, 172, 165; 15 Cyc. 76.) The doctrine of equitable estoppel applies independently of the statute of limitations, and to all classes of cases, even against an alleged expressed trust, and especially where an innocent purchaser acquires the land in good faith and makes improvements thereon. (Hawley v. Von Landen, 106 N.W. 456; Kleinclaus v. Butard, 81 P. 516; Kavanaugh v. Flavin, 88 P. 765; Barnard v. Seminary, 13 N.W. 811; Murphy v. Defoe, 99 N.W. 86; Diamond v. Manhein, 63 N.W. 495.) There is no fixed or definite rule as to the period of time which will constitute laches. Each case must be decided upon its own particular facts. (Abernathy v. Moses, 73 Ala. 381; Racine v. L. & T. Co., 86 Ill. 187; Bush v. Sherman, 80 Ill. 160; Bangher v. Woolen, 45 N.E. 94; Moss v. Geddes, 59 N.Y.S. 867; Mullen v. Carper, 37 W.Va. 215; Buck v. Davis, 64 Ark. 345; Hansen, &c. v. Teabout, 73 N.W. 875; Williams v. Allison, 33 Iowa 278; Bateman v. Reitler, 36 P. 548; Horr v. French, 68 N.W. 58; Bacon v. Chase, 50 N. W.; Berkey v. St. Paul Nat'l Bk., 56 N. W.; Loomis v. Rosenthal, 57 P. 55; Swift v. Smith, 79 F. 709; Newsom v. Wells, 5 McLean 21; Murphy v. Defoe, 99 N. W. (S. D.) 86; Wampel v. Kountz, 85 N.W. 595; Pitts v. Seavey, 55 N.W. 480; Diamond v. Manhein, 63 N.W. 495; Taylor v. Whitney, 57 N.W. 937; Gillespie v. Sawyer, 19 N.W. 449; Mathews v. Culbertson, 50 N.W. 201; Knapp v. Paine, 63 N.W. 575; Barnard v. German, &c., 13 N.W. 811; Shelby v. Bowden, N. W. (S. D.) 416; Coursolle v. Weyerhouser, 72 N.W. 697; Roeder v. Fouts, 31 P. 432; Harlow v. Lake Superior Iron Co., 2 N.W. 913; Hawley v. Von Lanken, 106 N.W. 456; 16 Cyc. 166; Long v. Olson, 88 N.W. 933; Hoor v. French, 68 N.W. 581; Berkey v. Bank, 56 N.W. 53; Loomis v. Rosenthal, 57 P. 55; Bacon v. Chase, 50 N.W. 23.) The doctrine of equitable estoppel by laches will protect innocent purchasers at judicial, execution or tax sales, whether the sale is regular or void.

If Bryant was not otherwise entitled to the land, he should have...

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