Chance v. Chapman

Decision Date16 December 1915
Docket Number1 Div. 895
PartiesCHANCE v. CHAPMAN.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Rehearing Denied Feb. 3, 1916

Appeal from Law and Equity Court, Mobile County; Saffold Berney Judge.

Bill by Dilla Reed against John C. Chapman, revived in the name of Dilla Chance. From a judgment for defendant, complainant appeals. Affirmed in part, and in part reversed and rendered and remanded.

L.H. &amp E.W. Faith, of Mobile, for appellant.

Ervin &amp McAleer, of Mobile, for appellee.

THOMAS J.

The bill in this case was filed by Dilla Reed, who died leaving a last will devising all her property to appellant, in whose name a revivor was regularly had, and who now prosecutes this appeal. The purpose of the bill was to cancel four certain conveyances, as a cloud upon complainant's title, on the ground that they had been obtained "by fraud or grossly inadequate consideration."

Mr. Pomeroy thus states the rule of gross inadequacy amounting to fraud (Eq.Jur. vol. 2, § 927):

"Although the actual cases in which a contract or conveyance has been canceled on account of gross inadequacy merely, without other inequitable incidents, are very few, yet the doctrine is settled, by a consensus of decisions and dicta, that even in the absence of all other circumstances, when the inadequacy of price is so gross that it shocks the conscience, and furnishes satisfactory and decisive evidence of fraud, it will be a sufficient ground for canceling a conveyance or contract, whether executed or executory. Even then fraud, and not inadequacy of price, is the true and only cause for the interposition of equity and the granting of relief."

The author supports the text by many authorities, including Gwynne v. Heaton, 1 Brown Ch. 1, 9, where Lord Thurlow states that the rule attaches in cases involving "an inequality so strong, gross, and manifest that it must be impossible to state it to a man of common sense without producing an exclamation at the inequality of it," and James v. Morgan, 1 Lev. 111, where, as an example of exorbitant price, the well-known "horseshoe case," in which a party "stipulated to pay a sum resulting from doubling the amount for every nail in the horse's shoes," is referred to. See, also, 1 Story, Eq. § 246.

In Judge v. Wilkins, 19 Ala. 771, the Chief Justice said:

"I follow the language of the authorities in saying that inadequacy of price, or other inequality in the bargain, is not within itself a sufficient ground to avoid a contract in a court of equity, on the ground of fraud; for courts of equity, as well as courts of law, must act upon the ground that every person who is not under some legal disability may dispose of his property in such manner and upon such terms as he sees fit; and whether his bargains are discreet or not, profitable or unprofitable, are considerations, not for courts of justice, but for the party himself. 1 Story's Eq. § 244; Low v. Barchard, 8 Ves. 133; Griffith v. Spratley, 1 Coxe's Ch. 383; Collier v. Brown, Id. 429; Osgood v. Franklin, 2 Johns. Ch. [N.Y.] 1-23 , and cases there cited. It is, however, said in many cases that there may be such gross inadequacy of price as to demonstrate imposition or undue influence, and in such cases a court of equity ought to interfere; but then the inadequacy should be so gross as to shock the conscience of the chancellor, and amount itself to evidence of fraud.". Cleere v. Cleere, 82 Ala. 581, 3 So. 107, 60 Am.Rep. 750; Mahone v. Williams, 39 Ala. 202; Saltonstall et al. v. Gordon, 33 Ala. 149.

The conveyance is really assailed rather because of the inadequacy of the consideration than because of fraud or concealment, or a misrepresentation of material facts upon the part of the appellee. It has been declared by this court that inadequacy of consideration is not, of itself, and aside from the unfavorable inferences to which it may give rise, ground for avoiding the contract. Juzan et al. v. Toulmin, 9 Ala. 662, 44 Am.Dec. 448; Judge v. Wilkins, supra; Williams v. Powell, 66 Ala. 20, 41 Am.Rep. 742.

In Malone v. Kelley et al., 54 Ala. 532, 538, Chief Justice Brickell said:

"When no fiduciary relation exists between the parties, and they are of legal capacity, however improvident or disadvantageous the contract may appear, though marked by folly or indiscretion, it must stand until the party seeking to escape its obligation clearly proves that it was the result of fraud, mistake, or surprise, or undue influence practiced upon him." Bolling v. Munchus, 65 Ala. 558; Judge v. Wilkins, supra.

If we look to the facts of this case, we think that the grantors were influenced, in the sale of the 70 acres in section 12, by reasons satisfactory to themselves, and not alone by the consideration in money.

Alfred Reed and his wife were childless and old, but they were not shown to have been infirm at the time of the execution of the conveyance. They had theretofore sold a designated 10-acre tract out of the north half of the northeast quarter of section 12, township 7 south, range 4 west, and owned and occupied as a homestead a house and 10 acres in the south half of section 1, township 7 south, range 4 west. The State Land Company was asserting a lien upon, or title to, all of said north half of the northeast quarter of section 12, and to the said 10-acre homestead tract in section 1. It was but natural for the Reeds to desire to protect their homestead in section 1, as well as their warranties to their purchasers of the 10 acres sold by them off of the north half of the northeast quarter of said section 12. Their 70-acre remainder of this latter tract does not appear to have been especially necessary for their comfort and support.

The agent of the land company suggested the sale of a portion of the lands, to discharge the claim, or to secure the title of his company. Acting on this suggestion, one of the Reeds proposed to the Sayres that, if they would pay this...

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6 cases
  • Tri-State Corp. v. State ex rel. Gallion
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • March 30, 1961
    ...of fraud. Juzan v. Toulmin, 9 Ala. 662; Mahone v. Williams, 39 Ala. 202; Cleere v. Cleere, 82 Ala. 581, 3 So. 107; Chance v. Chapman, 195 Ala. 513, 70 So. 676. The allegations in the bill itself as to fraud, collusion, bad faith, etc., are merely conclusions of the pleader, and if we are to......
  • Andrews v. Grey
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • February 1, 1917
    ...thereof, and that the mortgage be annulled and canceled. The common justice of the situation has been enforced by the chancellor (Chance v. Chapman, 70 So. 676), taking into view the rule of the act of September 22, 1915. The decree of the chancery court is affirmed. Affirmed. ANDERSON, C.J......
  • Finch v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • December 1, 1960
    ...of fraud. Juzan v. Toulmin, 9 Ala. 662; Mahone v. Williams, 39 Ala. 202; Cleere v. Cleere, 82 Ala. 581, 3 So. 107; Chance v. Chapman, 195 Ala. 513, 70 So. 676. No case has been cited by the State and none has come to our attention where an equity court has been called upon to cancel a conve......
  • Black v. Campbell
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • November 3, 1927
    ... ... So. 916, Ann.Cas.1912A, 702; Kirby v. Arnold, 191 ... Ala. 263, 68 So. 17; Abercrombie v. Carpenter, 150 ... Ala. 294, 43 So. 746; Chance v. Chapman, 195 Ala ... 513, 70 So. 676 ... In the ... case at bar the complainant had lived with the McDaniels on ... the property ... ...
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1 books & journal articles
  • RACE IN CONTRACT LAW.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 170 No. 5, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...Hodges, 81 S.E. 340); id. at [section] 926(d) (citing Stephens v. Ozbourne, 64 S.W. 902 (Tenn. 1901) ("old darkey"), Chance v. Chapman, 70 So. 676 (Ala. 1915) (plaintiff's race confirmed at U.S. DEP'T OF COM., BUREAU OF THE CENSUS, THIRTEENTH CENSUS OF THE UNITED STATES: 1910: POPULATION SC......

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