Culbertson v. Munson

Decision Date06 January 1886
Citation104 Ind. 451,4 N.E. 57
PartiesCulbertson and others v. Munson and others.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Appeal from Marshall circuit court.

Dykeman, Wilson & Taber, for appellants.

M. A. O. Packard and M. S. Coulter, for appellees.

MITCHELL, J.

The plaintiffs brought this action to quiet title to a certain 160-acre tract of land in Marshall county. The defendants, after filing a general denial to the complaint, filed a cross-complaint in two paragraphs, in both of which they sought to quiet the title to the same land in themselves. In the first paragraph of the cross-complaint it was averred that the cross-complainants were the owners and in possession of the land described, and that the plaintiffs were asserting an unfounded title to it. The second paragraph rested the right of the cross-complainants specifically on a tax sale, and a title which it was alleged had accrued to them thereunder. It was also averred in the second paragraph that the cross-complainants had made lasting and valuable improvements on the land while in possession under the tax deed. As alternative relief, this paragraph prayed that, in the event the cross-complainants' title should prove defective, the court ascertain the amount due them for taxes, penalties, improvements, etc., and decree a lien in their favor for the amount. Upon the final trial it was decreed that the plaintiffs were the owners of the land, and that their title should be quieted, subject to a lien in favor of the cross-complainants for the sum of $640.80 for taxes, interest, penalties, etc., and in the further sum of $300 for improvements.

The court below having overruled the plaintiff's motion for a new trial, they have brought the record here on appeal, and assign for error the overruling their demurrer to the cross-complaint, and overruling their motion for a new trial.

The first paragraph of the cross-complaint is not assailed. It is insisted, however, that the second is bad, for the reason that, in specifying the character of title under which they claim, the cross-complainants have not averred all the requisites of a good title. It may be true that the paragraph under consideration was not sufficient as a complaint to quiet title. The fact must be kept in view, however, that part of the relief demanded was, if the title asserted therein should prove defective, that the court should decree a lien for the taxes paid, together with the interest and penalties thereon, and the improvements made by the defendants. It was therefore sufficient as to part of the relief demanded; and, where the complaint is so far sufficient, a demurrer to it is properly overruled. Locke v. Catlett, 96 Ind. 291, and cases cited.

It is argued that upon the facts stated the sale for taxes was unauthorized and void. If this view were conceded, yet, since the auditor issued his deed upon such sale, and the sale does not appear to have been invalid for any of the causes enumerated in section 6495, Rev. St. 1881, the holders of the deed were entitled to enforce the state's lien for taxes, which, although the sale was utterly void, was nevertheless transferred to them. Locke v. Catlett, suprai.

It appeared in evidence that one Jones was at one time the owner of the tax title, and that, at the request of Fred. W. Munson, he transferred the title thus held to Stephen Munson, through whom the defendants claim. The sale from Jones to Stephen Munson was negotiated by Fred. W. Munson. Stephen Munson subsquently transferred his interest to Fred. W. and Louis L. Munson. The plaintiffs offered to prove by Jones that Fred. W. Munson, at the time the sale was negotiated to Stephen Munson, represented that he was acting for his (Munson's) wife and the plaintiffs in making such purchase, and that he was making it for their benefit; and that, by reason of these representations, Jones was induced to sell his tax title for less than was actually due according to law. This evidence the court excluded, the defendants having withdrawn any objection to it. It is argued that it was a legitimate defense to the appellees' claim to enforce a lien on the land for taxes, to show that they acquired their claim by misrepresentations made to Jones; that, because Fred. W. Munson, in negotiating the sale from Jones to Stephen Munson, represented that he was acting on behalf of his wife and for the plaintiffs, Stephen Munson took the tax claim in trust for the plaintiffs, and that the transfer from Stephen Munson to Fred. W. and his brother made them nothing more than trustees.

The case of Gwaltney v. Wheeler, 26 Ind. 415, is relied on. We do not think the case cited controls the case before us. In that case the facts were that Reitz and...

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