Hughes v. Jones

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Citation22 N.E. 446,116 N.Y. 67
PartiesHUGHES v. JONES et al.
Decision Date08 October 1889


Appeal from supreme court, general term, fifth department.

This was an action brought by Edward Hughes against Joseph H. Jones to set aside a certain deed made by David Jones, alias Richard Hughes. The facts are as follows: On the 19th of February, 1816, at Wales, in the island of Great Britain, Richard Hughes, plaintiff's father, was married to one Ermine Jones. They had several children, all foreign born, and all of whom are still aliens except the plaintiff, who in 1870 became a naturalized citizen of the United States. After the birth of these children, and about the year 1834, said Richard Hughes deserted his family, and came to the state of New York, where he resided until his death, in 1881. Shortly after his arrival in this country, he assumed the name of David Jones, and under that name unlawfully married one Margaret Armour, by whom he had a son, the defendant Joseph H. Jones, who was born before the death of said Ermine Hughes, which occurred in 1856 at Wales, where she had always resided. In 1853, said Richard Hughes became the owner of Buckhorn island, consisting of 146 1/2 acres of land in Niagara river, Erie county. In May, 1865, the plaintiff, at the request of his father, came to this state, and in November, 1869, began to live with him on said island. March 15, 1870, Fichard Hughes, by an instrument dated that day and duly recorded, leased said island to the plaintiff for the term of 12 years thereafter, upon the condition that said lessee should maintain and support the lessor and wife during said term. The plaintiff took possession under the lease, and remained in possession until July 24th of the same year, when he and his father quarreled, and he left the island. Subsequently, the lease was surrendered. December 5, 1870, he recovered a judgment against his father for $300.47 damages and costs, and on the 22d of May, 1871, he recovered another for $450.51. October 7, 1870, Richard Hughes conveyed said island to the defendant Joseph H. Jones ‘upon the express condition,’ and for the consideration, that the grantee should ‘keep, maintain, and support’ the grantor, ‘and Margaret, his wife,’ during the period of their natural lives. This deed was duly recorded November 21, 1870. Margaret Jones lived with said Richard Hughes as his wife while he resided upon the island, and died shortly after the commencement of this action, in 1881. August 1, 1871, the plaintiff caused his father to be imprisoned in the county jail of Erie county under said judgments, and thereafter said Margaret and Joseph H. Jones sought to effect his release from such imprisonment by instituting proceedings to have him adjudged a lunatic. The petition, which was signed and sworn to by said Joseph H. Jones only, alleged that David Jones, ‘who is the father of your petitioner, how is, and for about the space of five years last past has been, a lunatic, and, being of the age of eighty-six years, is so far deprived of his reason as to be wholly unfit and unable to govern himself. * * * Your petitioner further shows that her said husband * * * was known and called by the name of Richard Hughes; * * * that the said David Jones owned at the time he became a lunatic, and within the last two years,’ the real estate in question, known as ‘Buckhorn Island.’ A commission from the county court of Erie county was duly issued, and on the 18th of October, 1871, resulted in in an inquisition ‘that the said David Jones, alias Richard Hughes, * * * is a lunatic, and of unsound mind, and does not enjoy lucid intervals, so that he is incapable of the government of himself, or of the management of his lands, tenements, goods, and chattels, and that he has been in the same state of lunacy for five or six years; * * * that whether the said David Jones, alias Richard Hughes, being in that state, has alienated any lands and tenements or not, the jurors aforesaid know not; that the following lands and tenements [describing Buckhorn island] yet remain to the said David Jones, alias Richard Hughes.’ The inquisition was duly filed, and on the 13th of November, 1871, said Joseph H. Jones presented the same to the county court with his petition, duly signed and verified, praying that a person nominated therein might ‘be appointed the committee of the person and estate of the said David Jones, alias Richard Hughes.’ On the same day, the county court made an order, ‘on motion of * * * counsel for the petitioner,’ that the ‘finding of the jury, * * * as set forth in the said inquisition, be, and the same is hereby, confirmed.’ The same order appointed a committee, who duly qualified and acted as such until the death of said Richard Hughes. On motion of the committee, the judgments recovered by the plaintiff against his father were set aside ‘upon the ground that said Richard Hughes was a lunatic, and of unsound mind, when said judgments were recovered.’ June 16, 1874, Joseph H. Jones mortgaged said premises to one Caroline Root to secure the payment of $1,000, and the said Richard Hughes united in the mortgage. The plaintiff commenced this action, asking the court to declare and establish his rights in said premises, to set aside said deed and mortgage as void, and to compel the defendants to surrender and deliver possession of Buckhorn island to him. Upon the trial before special term, after proof of the foregoing facts by the plaintiff, the defendants ‘gave certain evidence tending to show that when said Richard Hughes executed, acknowledged, and delivered said deed to said Joseph H. Jones he was not a lunatic, but was of sound mind, and capable to manage his person and estate.’ This evidence was objected to by the plaintiff upon the ground that the record in the lunacy proceedings was conclusive evidence as against said Joseph H. Jones. The objection was overruled, and the plaintiff excepted. The plaintiff gave evidence, aside from said record, tending to show that Richard Hughes was a lunatic, and of unsound mind, when he conveyed said premises as aforesaid. The court found that said Richard Hughes was competent to execute the conveyance in question, and judgment was rendered dismissing the complaint, which was affirmed upon appeal to the general term.

George Wadsworth, for appellant.

Spencer Clinton, for respondents.

VANN, J., ( after stating the facts substantially as above.)

On the trial of this action, the court found as a fact, upon a conflict of evidence, ‘that said Richard Hughes, at the time of the execution and delivery of the said deed, * * * was mentally competent to execute the same; that said deed was not executed by said Richard Hughes through force, fraud, or undue influence imposed upon him by said defendants, * * * or any or either of them, but the same was the free and voluntary act and deed of said Richard Hughes.’ It is conceded that there was sufficient evidence to sustain this finding, unless the record in the lunacy proceeding was conclusive evidence, and hence the facts found by the jury therein are incapable of contradiction by the defendants in this action. All contracts of a lunatic, habitual drunkard, or person of unsound mind, made after an inquisition and confirmation thereof, are absolutely void until by permission of the court he is allowed to assume control of his property. L'Amoureux v. Crosby, 2 Paige, 422:Wadsworth v. Sharpsteen, 8 N. Y. 388; 2 Rev. St. (6th Ed.) 1094, § 10. In such cases the lunacy record, as long as it remains in force, is conclusive evidence of incapacity. Id. Contracts, however, made by this class of persons before office found, but within the period overreached by the finding of the jury, are not utterly void, although they are presumed to be so until capacity to contract is shown by satisfactory evidence. Id.; Van Deusen v. Sweet, 51 N. Y. 378;Banker v. Banker, 63 N. Y. 409. Under such circumstances, the proceedings in lunacy are presumptive, but not conclusive, evidence of a want of capacity. The presumption, whether conclusive or only prima facie, extends to all the world, and includes all persons, whether they have notice of the inquisition or not. Hart v. Deamer, 6 Wend. 497;Osterhout v. Shoemaker, 3 Hill, 513; 1 Greenl. Ev. § 556. These principles are now well settled in this state, and no question could have arisen as to the right of the defendants to show that the grantor, at the time the conveyance in question was executed, was of sound mind, but for the fact that the grantee was the petitioner in the lunacy proceedings. It is claimed that he thereby became a technical party to the record, as that expression is commonly understood in law, and hence that he is so completely bound by the finding of the jury as to be precluded from attempting to show the actual truth. This point does not appear to have been passed upon by the courts, although there are dicta of learned judges bearing somewhat upon it. A party is ordinarily one who has or claims an interest in the subject of an action or proceeding instituted to afford some relief to the one who sets the law in motion against another person or persons. Interest, or the claim of interest, is the statutory test as to the right to be a party to legal proceedings,almost without exception. Unless a party has some personal interest in the result, he can have no standing in court. But any one, even a stranger, can petition for a commission to inquire as to the sanity of any other person within the jurisdiction of the court. While this is now provided by statute, it was also the rule at common law, although a strong case...

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  • James B. Nutter & Co. v. Black
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 30, 2015
    ...for him, a deed of conveyance made while the guardianship of such committee actively continues is void [.]”); Hughes v. Jones, 116 N.Y. 67, 72–73, 22 N.E. 446 (1889) (“All contracts of a lunatic, habitual drunkard or person of unsound mind, made after an inquisition and confirmation thereof......
  • McKenzie v. Donnell
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    • July 12, 1899
    ...... pointed out by the statute. Rannells v. Garner, 80. Mo. 474; Keihne v. Russell, 53 Mo.App. 667;. Redden v. Baker, 86 Ind. 191; Hughes v. Jones, 116 N.Y. 67; Cochran v. Van Surley, 32. Am. Dec. 574; Hovey v. Hobson, 89 Am. Dec. 705;. Wadsworth v. Sharpstein, 8 N.Y. 388; ......
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    ...litigation sanctions because, in light of N.J.S.A. 1:1-2, DYFS cannot be found to be a nonprevailing "person". Hughes v. Jones, 116 N.Y. 67, 22 N.E. 446, 448 (1889)); Black's Law Dictionary 1122 (6th ed. 1990) (parties are persons "by or against whom a legal suit is brought, whether in law ......
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