Chase v. Driver

Decision Date27 February 1899
Docket Number1,083.
Citation92 F. 780
PartiesCHASE v. DRIVER et al.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

William M. Randolph (George Randolph, on the brief), for appellant.

Jacob Trieber, for appellees.

Before CALDWELL and SANBORN, Circuit Judges, and ADAMS, District judge.

SANBORN Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a decree made on December 1, 1897, which settled the account between the owner of the equity of redemption in certain lands, and the mortgagee thereof, after the lands had been sold to satisfy the mortgage debt, under a decree rendered in the same case on April 9, 1896, at the suit of the owner of the equity, and after that sale had been confirmed, on December 28, 1896. Ike A. Chase was the complainant in the suit. He was the owner of the equity of redemption in the lands. He has appealed from the decree settling the account; but it was at his suit that the decree of sale was made, and he took no appeal from that decree. He filed no exceptions to the report of sale under it, and he did not appeal from the order of confirmation of that report. Nevertheless, by his assignment of errors on the appeal from the decree of December 1, 1897, filed after that decree was made, he attempts to challenge the provisions of the decree of sale, and of the order confirming the sale under that decree. We are met, therefore, at the threshold of our investigation of this case, with the question whether the decree of sale and order of confirmation were mere interlocutory decrees, and thus reviewable upon an appeal from the decree on the accounting, or were so far final that they could be questioned only by direct appeals from them taken within six months after their respective entries. 26 Stat.c. 517, Sec. 6; 1 Supp.Rev.St. (2d Ed.) p. 903. A brief statement of the course of the litigation, of the facts which gave rise to it, and of the provisions of these various decrees, is indispensable to a clear understanding of this question.

On December 1, 1888, one Warner owned the land over which this controversy arose, and on that day he conveyed it, by a trust deed, to Abner Driver, to secure a loan of $8,000, which he then made of James D. Driver. After a default had been made in the conditions of the trust deed, Abner Driver, the trustee, sold the land therein to satisfy the debt; and James D. Driver, who will hereafter be called the 'mortgagee,' purchased it at the sales. These sales were made on December 8, 1891, and on December 10, 1892. Trust deeds evidencing them were made in 1893 and 1894. On November 24, 1891, Warner conveyed his equity of redemption in the lands to the appellant, Chase; and on March 8, 1892 Chase also obtained a sheriff's deed of Warner's interest, upon a sale made under a judgment against him. In December, 1892, the mortgagee took possession of the lands under the trustee's sales. On June 29, 1895, Chase exhibited his bill in this suit. In that bill he set forth the facts we have recited, admitted the original existence of the debt of $8,000 and interest, and conceded the validity of the trust deed made to secure it, but alleged that since November 24, 1891, he had been entitled to the possession of the lands; that the sales and trust deeds were irregular and void; that James D. Driver was only a mortgagee in possession; that proper credits for the amounts which had been, or should have been, paid on the debt ought to be allowed, and a proper account of the rents and profits of the land ought to be rendered; and that they should be sold again for something near their actual value. He did not offer to pay the mortgage debt, or to redeem the lands from it, but the prayer of his bill was that the trustee's deeds, and the sales upon which they were based, might be set aside that the trust deed might be reinstated, so far as in equity it ought to be; that an account between Warner and Chase, upon the one side, and the trustee and the mortgagee, upon the other, might be taken; that the true amount owing be found; and that, if it was determined that Warner was justly indebted to the mortgagee in any amount, the lands should be sold again, and the proceeds of the sale applied to the payment of the costs of the suit and of the debt to the mortgagee; and that the balance, if any, be paid to the appellant, Chase. The trustee and mortgagee filed answers, which denied the equities of this bill. Replications followed, testimony was taken in the usual course, and on April 9, 1896, the case came on for final hearing. After that hearing, and on that day, the court rendered a decree that if the appellant would within 10 days give a bond, with proper sureties, in the penal sum of $1,000, conditioned that if, at the proposed sale of the mortgaged premises, there should not be a sufficient sum realized to pay the costs of the sale and of the proposed reference to the master, in addition to the amount that should be found due to the mortgagee, he would pay such costs and expenses, then the trustee's sales and deeds should be set aside, and the land should be sold on May 28, 1896, by a commissioner named in the decree; that, if the appellant did not make and file such a bond within the time fixed, his bill should be dismissed; that, if such bond was filed, John I, Moore, as special master, should state the account between the parties; that in the statement of this account he should credit the mortgagee with the amount due him on the loan, with interest until December 1, 1896, with all taxes on the land which the mortgagee had paid, and with all money which the mortgagee had expended for permanent, beneficial, and necessary improvements thereon, and should charge him with the amount paid upon the debt of Warner, and with all the rents of the lands which he had collected, or which he should have collected, between January 1, 1893, and December 31, 1896; that the appellant should pay the costs of the sale and reference, if the lands did not realize an amount sufficient to pay the balance found due the mortgagee upon this accounting and these costs; and that the question regarding the costs which had accrued prior to this decree was reserved. The bond was filed. The lands were sold under the decree on May 28, 1896. The commissioner filed his report of sale on September 1, 1896; no exceptions were filed to it; and on December 8, 1896, the court ordered that the sale be confirmed; that the commissioner execute a deed to the purchaser, who was the mortgagee; that the purchase price be credited on the amount due him; and that the appellant pay the commissioner a fee of $100, and the expenses of the sale. At this sale the land brought $10,400. On November 28, 1896, the special master filed his report upon the accounting, by which he found the amount due to the mortgagee, under the decree, to be $11,372.23; so that the land failed to realize an amount sufficient to pay the debt, by $972.23. Chase filed exceptions to the report of the master, by the terms of which he challenged each provision of the decree of April 9, 1896, and of the order of confirmation of December 1, 1896, as well as the findings set down in the report of the master. On December 1, 1897, after a hearing upon these exceptions, the court below entered a decree that they were overruled; that the land did not bring an amount sufficient to pay the amount due to the mortgagee; that the appellees pay all the costs which had accrued in the suit prior to the rendition of the decree of April 9, 1896; that the master be allowed a fee of $250 for his services; that the appellant and the surety on his bond pay the costs which accrued subsequent to the date of the decree of sale; and that the appellees have execution therefor. It is from this last decree, of December 1, 1897, that the appeal before us was taken. When this appeal was allowed, it was many months too late to take an appeal from the decree of sale, or from the order confirming it. So that we cannot consider or review that decree or order, unless they were interlocutory, and thus reviewable by reason of the appeal from the decree for an accounting. Rev. St. Sec. 692; 26 Stat.c. 517, Sec. 6; 1 Supp.Rev.St. (2d Ed.)p. 903; Fourniquet v. Perkins, 16 How. 82, 84.

It is often a vexatious and doubtful question what decrees and decisions are final, and what are interlocutory, within the meaning of these acts of congress. One who carefully examines the decisions of the supreme court upon this question cannot fail to be impressed with the truth of the remark made by Mr. Justice Brown in delivering the opinion of that court in McGourkey v. Railway Co., 146 U.S.

536 545, 13 Sup.Ct. 172, when he said, 'The cases, it must be conceded, are not altogether harmonious. ' Many of the decisions of that court are cited, and some of them are reviewed, in that opinion; and, while an examination of them discloses the fact that there are some decrees so close to the line of demarkation that it is difficult to place them, as in Iron Co. v. Meeker, 109 U.S. 183, 3 Sup.Ct. 111, and Beebe v. Russell, 19 How. 283, 286, yet there are many about which there can be little doubt. If the main purpose of the bill is to obtain an account between the parties, and a recovery of the balance that shall be found due, a decree that the complainant is entitled to the accounting, and that the case be referred to a master to state the account, is not final. Latta v. Kilbourn, 150 U.S. 524, 539, 14 Sup.Ct. 201. Decrees which establish the validity of mortgages, and direct the cases to stand over without ordering a sale, are interlocutory. Railway Co. v. Simmons, 123 U.S. 52, 8 Sup.Ct. 58; Parsons v. Robinson, 122 U.S. 112, 7 Sup.Ct. 1153. A decree of foreclosure and sale, which leaves the property to be sold unidentified, and the amount due undetermined,...

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