Bynum v. Patty

Decision Date18 December 1944
Docket Number4-7494
Citation184 S.W.2d 254,207 Ark. 1084
PartiesBynum v. Patty And DeVilbiss v. Thompson
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Appeal from Sebastian Circuit Court, Fort Smith District; J. Sam Wood, Judge.

Affirmed.

Ira D. Oglesby, for appellant.

R B. Chastain and Hardin, Barton & Shaw, for appellee.

OPINION

Robins Justice.

These two cases, involving the same subject-matter, were consolidated and tried together in the lower court. Each was brought in the municipal court of Fort Smith, Arkansas, by a tenant against the landlord to recover under the provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act enacted by Congress on January 30, 1942, 50 U.S.C.A. App., § 901. Appellant, Chester Bowles, administrator, Office of Price Administration, asked and was granted leave to intervene in circuit court. The circuit court, on appeal from judgments of the municipal court, sustained demurrers of the defendants, holding that the municipal court had no jurisdiction of the subject-matter involved, and dismissed both suits. The correctness of the findings and orders of the circuit court is challenged on this appeal.

These suits are based on the following provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act of Congress:

"Sec. 205 (e). If any person selling a commodity violates a regulation, order, or price schedule prescribing a maximum price or maximum prices, the person who buys such commodity for use or consumption other than in the course of trade or business may bring an action either for $ 50 or for treble the amount by which the consideration exceeded the applicable maximum price, whichever is the greater, plus reasonable attorney's fees and costs as determined by the court. For the purpose of this section the payment or receipt of rent for defensearea housing accommodations shall be deemed the buying or selling of a commodity, as the case may be. . . . Any suit or action under this sub-section may be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction and shall be instituted in one year after delivery is completed or rent is paid. 50 U.S.C.A. App., § 925(e).

"It shall be unlawful . . . for any person . . . to demand or receive any rent for any defense-area, housing accommodations, . . . in violation of any regulation or order under section 2, . . . or of any price schedule effective in accordance with the provision of section 206, . . . or to . . . agree to do any of the foregoing." 56 Stat. 28, c. 26, Title I, § 4, act January 30, 1942, 50 U.S.C.A. App., § 904.

Wilful violation of the act is also made punishable by fine of not more than $ 5,000 or imprisonment for not more than two years. Section 205 (b) Idem.

In the case of Bynum v. Patty, it was alleged in count 1 of the complaint that appellant, Bynum, rented from appellee, Patty, for the month of February, 1943, a certain apartment in Fort Smith, and that said appellee had charged and collected as rental therefor $ 35 per month, whereas the maximum rental for said apartment as fixed by the Fort Smith Rental Office, Office of Price Administration, under the Emergency Price Control Act of Congress, was $ 30 per month. Recovery of $ 5 excess rent paid, $ 50 damages and a reasonable attorney's fee was prayed in this count. The complaint contained seven other counts, alleging similar overcharge, and asking similar relief, for each of the months from March to September, 1943, inclusive.

In the case of DeVilbiss v. Thompson, appellant, DeVilbiss, alleged in count 1 of her complaint that appellee, Thompson, charged said appellant $ 8.50 as rent for a room in appellee's home in Fort Smith, together with linens and laundry service, for the week beginning July 20 and ending July 27, 1943, whereas the maximum weekly charge for said rental and service as fixed by the Fort Smith Defense Rental Office, Office of Price Administration, was only $ 8 per week. Damages of $ 50 for said excessive charge, together with reasonable attorney's fee and costs were demanded. Twenty-one other counts, each covering subsequent weeks up to and including the week of December 14 to December 21, 1943, showing similar overcharge and demanding like relief, were contained in the complaint.

The civil jurisdiction of the Fort Smith Municipal Court is thus fixed by § 9905 of Pope's Digest of the laws of Arkansas: "Concurrent with justices of the peace and exclusive of the circuit court in all matters of contract where the amount in controversy does not exceed the sum of one hundred dollars, excluding interest concurrent with justices of the peace and with the circuit court in matters of contract where the amount in controversy does not exceed the sum of three hundred dollars, exclusive of interest; concurrent with the justices of the peace and with the circuit court in suits for the recovery of personal property where the value of the property does not exceed the sum of three hundred dollars; and concurrent with the justices...

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