Feuchtenberger v. Williamson

Decision Date15 November 1923
Citation120 S.E. 257
CourtVirginia Supreme Court

[Ed. Note.—For other definitions, see Words and Phrases, First and Second Series, Interest.]

Appeal from Circuit Court, Albemarle County.

Suit by Williamson, Carroll & Saunders against H. W. Feuchtenberger to enforce a mechanic's lien. The cause was referred to a commissioner for report, which the trial court confirmed, and from the decree rendered, defendant appeals. Reversed, and bill dismissed.

Perkins, Walker & Battle, of Charlottesville, for appellant.

E. V. Walker and L. F. Smith, both of Charlottesville, for appellees.

PRENTTS, J. These are the circumstances which give rise to this litigation:

The appellant, being the owner of certain lots, on March 23, 1922, entered into an agreement under seal to sell seven of them to Ada M. Wood. The purchaser agreed to pay $2,000 therefor, in 10 monthly payments of $75 each, on the last day of each month ($750), and that after such 10 monthly payments had been made the lots were to be conveyed in fee simple, and the balance of the purchase money, $1,250, was to be secured by deed of trust, and all of such deferred payments were to bear 6 per cent. interest. The contract also provided that possession was to be delivered to the vendee, but it was furthermore "distinctly understood and agreed that, should the purchaser fail to keep up the monthly payments when the same shall respectively fall due, then this contract shall be considered null and void, and the vendor is to retain the payments made hereunder as liquidated damages, and shall have the right to re-enter and take possession himself of the lots hereby conveyed, without notice to the purchaser, and without legal action of any kind or description. The vendee, Wood, never paid the initial installment of $75, but paid $25 thereof.

The appellees, who were general contractors, agreed to build a dairy barn on two of these lots, referred to as 41 and 42. The building was promptly completed within about two weeks, but never paid for. Then the contractors filed a mechanic's lien, claiming $632, with interest from April 6, 1922. The bill alleges that the barn was completed April 6, 1922, and the lien is asserted against the building "and so much of the equitable interest (in these two lots) as the said Ada M. Wood is entitled to under the said contract."

The appellant answered the bill, admitting the contract of March 23, 1922, for the sale of the seven lots, the payment of $25, but alleged that, as Wood failed entirely to carry out the terms of her written contract, it was treated as abrogated, null, and void, and that both the legal and equitable title had reverted to him, that the building had been erected without his knowledge or consent, and that the contractors had full knowledge that Wood had no title or interest in the land.

There was a decree referring the cause to a commissioner for a report as to the interests of the parties and their consequential rights. The commissioner reported that Wood had abandoned her contract, that the $25 paid by her under the contract had been forfeited, and that at the time of his report she had no right or title to the property, but that he is of opinion that Feuchtenberger is estopped, so far as the validity of the mechanic's lien is concerned, from denying that Mrs. Wood owned the lots on which the barn was built. He further reported in favor of the lien of the contractors, and that to enforce it the two lots upon which the barn is located should be sold, but that in the distribution of the proceeds of the sale Feuchtenberger is to be preferred to the extent of $200 the estimated value of these two lots.

The court, over the exception of the appellant, confirmed the report and directed the sale of the lots for the satisfaction of the claim, and decreed that the appellant should be preferred in the distribution of the proceeds as suggested by the commissioner, thus treating the appellant as if he held a lien on the lots for $200. Fidelity Loan, etc., Co. v. Dennis, 93 Va. 504, 25 S. E. 546.

The question presented, then, is whether, under the circumstances shown, the contractors are entitled to have the two lots, withthe building thereon, sold for the satisfaction of the lien claimed.

There are many cases involving such liens, and while the statutes are of the same general type, still, as there are many minor differences, which have led to different conclusions, the cases from other jurisdictions do not always aid us in construing the Virginia statute.

The rights of the parties must be determined by a fair construction of the Virginia statute. Code, §§ 6426 to 643T, inclusive.

For the appellant, it is urged, among other things, that inasmuch as Mrs. Wood has no interest whatever in the real estate, the court is without power to sell it, because section 6436 expressly provides that:

"If the person who shall cause such building or structure to be erected or repaired owns less than a fee simple estate in such land, then only his interest therein shall be subjected to said liens."

Whereas the appellees undertake to support the decree by section 6426, which contains no such limitation, but provides in general terms that all persons performing any labor or nishing materials for the construction buildings shall have a lien upon such structures and so much of the land therewith as shall be necessary for the convenient use and enjoyment thereof, if perfected as required by statute; so that the issue to be determined is clear.

We find that it appears to be perfectly well settled that an equitable interest or estate in hand is subject to a mechanic's lien, and this so far as we know is universally held, unless the statute expressly excludes such a construction. Lyon v. McGuffey, 4 Pa. 126, 45 Am. Dec. note, 678; Wilson v. Lubke, 176 Mo. 210, 75 S. W. 602, 98 Am. St. Rep. note, 508; Belnap v. Condon, 34 Utah, 213, 97 Pac. 111, 23 L. R. A. (N. S.), note, 612; 18 R. C. L. 884-885.

So that, if it can be held that Wood has any equitable right, title, or interest in these two lots, there is jurisdiction to sell that interest. It is clear, however, that she has no right, title, or interest, legal or equitable, in the property, or any of it. Even if it appeared that she has an equitable interest in the entire seven lots covered by the contract, we know of no principle under which it could be held...

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10 cases
  • Hawthorne v. Austin Organ Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • June 25, 1934
    ...150 Va. 756, 143 S. E. 284, 61 A. L. R. 232, indicating that a church in Virginia is not a legal entity. See, also, Feuchtenberger v. Williamson, 137 Va. 578, 120 S. E. 257, which holds that under the Mechanic's Lien Statute, sections 6426 and 6436, only the interest of the contracting part......
  • In re Concrete Structures, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • March 30, 2001
    ...at 880 (holding that both the right and remedy of a mechanic's lien are creatures of statute); Feuchtenberger v. Williamson, Carroll & Saunders, 137 Va. 578, 120 S.E. 257, 259 (1923) ("the lien and the jurisdiction of the court depend upon the statute, and not upon equitable or ethical rule......
  • Fleming-Gilchrist Const. Co. v. McGonigle
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • December 18, 1935
    ...and decisions of various states, see University of Missouri Bulletin, 48 Law Series 5.) As said by the Virginia court, in the Feuchtenberger case, supra: "Neither the of the chancellor, nor the length of his foot can supplement the statute, and vest the court with any jurisdiction except th......
  • In re Cunningham
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Northern District of Indiana
    • August 14, 2012
    ...at 880 (holding that both the right and remedy of a mechanic's lien are creatures of statute); Feuchtenberger v. Williamson, Carroll & Saunders, 137 Va. 578, 120 S.E. 257, 259 (1923) (“the lien and the jurisdiction of the court depend upon the statute, and not upon equitable or ethical rule......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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