Johnson v. Niichels, 5252

Citation48 Idaho 654,284 P. 840
Decision Date31 January 1930
Docket Number5252
PartiesC. F. JOHNSON, Respondent, v. JOHN NIICHELS and ELIZABETH NIICHELS, Appellants
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho


1. Lessor's action to restrain lessees from selling and incumbering crops, recover possession of premises, and foreclose chattel mortgage held equitable, so that defendants were not entitled to jury trial because of cross-complaint and counterclaim for damages from plaintiff's breach of lease, damages being merely incidental.

2. Where record did not show what definite conclusion trial court reached on question whether action was in equity or at law, after declaring he did not know, but would see as they went along, and defendants did not insist on definite understanding at outset of trial that plaintiff's equitable cause of action be kept separate from legal cause of action set up by cross-complaint and counterclaim for damages, they cannot complain on appeal that court disposed of action as equitable one by ignoring jury's verdict on legal issues and making his own fact findings.

3. A defendant, who pleads a counterclaim in an equitable action is not entitled to a jury trial of the issues arising thereon as a matter of right.

4 Const., art. 5, sec. 1, abolishing distinctions between actions at law and suits in equity, and requiring trial of facts at issue by order of court before jury, does not guarantee right to trial by jury in equity actions, but merely guarantees common-law right existing when Constitution was adopted.

5. Findings of a jury in an equity case are only advisory, and may be adopted, or amended and adopted, as the court's findings, or the court may make its findings independent of jury's findings.

APPEAL from the District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District for Twin Falls County. Hon. Wm. A. Babcock, Judge.

Consolidated actions in equity. Judgment for plaintiff. Affirmed.

Judgment affirmed. Costs to respondents. Petition for rehearing denied.

Turner K. Hackman, for Appellants.

Ignoring for the time being the constitutional rights hereinafter set forth, and regardless of such constitutional rights, as to equity actions, the court was bound to enter judgment according to the verdict of the jury on all issues except as raised by respondent's complaint in foreclosure and appellant's answer thereto. (Farrell v. City of Ontario, 39 Cal.App. 251, 178 P. 740; Prairie Flour Mill Co. v. Farmers' Elevator Co., 45 Idaho 229, 261 P. 673, 675; Slocum v. New York L. Ins. Co., 228 U.S. 364, 387, Ann. Cas. 1914D, 1029, 33 S.Ct. 523, 57 L.Ed. 879, 889, 890; Hughes v. Dunlap, 91 Cal. 385, 27 P. 642, 643; People v. Hill, 16 Cal. 113, 117; Southern P. Land Co. v. Dickerson, 188 Cal. 113, 204 P. 576; Lufkins v. Collins, 2 Idaho 256, 259, 10 P. 300; Montgomery v. Sayre, 91 Cal. 206, 27 P. 648; Reiner v. Schroder, 146 Cal. 411, 80 P. 517, 520; Walter v. Louisville R. Co., 150 Ky. 652, Ann. Cas. 1914D, 441, 150 S.W. 824, 43 L. R. A., N. S., 126, 129; Johansen v. Looney, 30 Idaho 123, 131, 163 P. 303; Sandstrom v. Smith, 12 Idaho 446, 448, 449, 86 P. 416; Farwell v. Murray, 104 Cal. 464, 38 P. 199, 200; Swasey v. Adair, 88 Cal. 179, 25 P. 1119.)

Court by ignoring verdict and entering judgment contrary to the special verdict of the jury, deprived appellant of a jury trial guaranteed by Idaho state Constitution, there having been no motion to set the verdict aside; no order setting same aside and no new trial before a jury was awarded in the case. (Boam et al. v. Sewell, 40 Idaho 524, 234 P. 153; Haskell & Barker Car Co. v. Prezezdziankowski, 170 Ind. 1, 127 Am. St. 352, 83 N.E. 626, 14 L. R. A., N. S., 972, 978, 979; Jones v. Chicago; B. & Q. R. R. Co., 23 Wyo. 148, 147 P. 508, 515, 516; Fox v. West, 1 Idaho 782, 784; Williams v. Love, 1 Ind. Ter. 585, 43 S.W. 856, 858; Walker v. New Mexico & S. P. R. R. Co., 165 U.S. 593, 598, 17 S.Ct. 421, 41 L.Ed. 837, 841, 843; Reiner v. Schroeder, supra; Hughes v. Dunlap, supra; Fairmount Union Joint Stock etc. Assn. v. Downey, 146 Ind. 503, 45 N.E. 696; Johnson v. Fraser, 2 Idaho 404, 409, 18 P. 48.)

Porter & Taylor, for Respondent.

The consolidated case was an action in equity and triable as such. (Burke Land etc. Co. v. Wells, Fargo & Co., 7 Idaho 42, 60 P. 87; Dover Lumber Co. v. Case, 31 Idaho 276, 170 P. 108; Johansen v. Looney, 30 Idaho 123, 163 P. 303; Cleland v. McLaurin, 40 Idaho 371, 232 P. 571.)

In equitable actions the defendant is not entitled to a jury trial. (Christensen v. Hollingsworth, 6 Idaho 87, 96 Am. St. 256, 53 P. 211; Brady v. Yost, 6 Idaho 273, 55 P. 542; Portneuf Irr. Co., Ltd., v. Budge, 16 Idaho 116, 18 Ann. Cas. 674, 100 P. 1046; People v. Burnham, 35 Idaho 522, 207 P. 589; State v. Kelley, 39 Idaho 668, 229 P. 659; Young v. Vail, 29 N.M. 324, 34 A. L. R. 980, 222 P. 912.)

And if defendant sets up counterclaims in the nature of law actions he is not entitled to jury trial on such counterclaims. (Dover Lumber Co. v. Case, supra; Young v. Vail, supra.)

In the instant case the court used the jury in an advisory capacity; and the court had a right to disregard the findings of the jury. (Houser v. Austin, 2 Idaho 204, 10 P. 37; Bradbury v. Idaho & Oregon Land Imp. Co., 2 Idaho 239, 10 P. 620; Pritchard v. Butler, 4 Idaho 518, 43 P. 73; Brady v. Yost, supra; Gordon v. Lemp, 7 Idaho 677, 63 P. 444; Curtis v. Kirkpatrick, 9 Idaho 629, 75 P. 760; Fritcher v. Kelley, 34 Idaho 468, 201 P. 1037; Hill v. Porter, 38 Idaho 574, 223 P. 538; Wilson v. Sunnyside Orchard Co., 33 Idaho 501, 196 P. 302.)

GIVENS, C. J. Budge, Lee and Varian, JJ., concur.



Respondent brought two separate actions against appellants; the first alleged in substance that appellants, as lessees from respondent, had breached the terms of a crop share lease of farm lands in certain designated particulars, and that appellants unless restrained would sell and incumber the crop for the year involved, in which crop respondent by reason of the lease claimed an interest; also claimed by reason of the breach of the lease the right to repossession of the premises, asked for a receiver, damages because of depreciation in and loss of crop, and his share of the crop grown. Appellants entered general denials and in a cross-complaint and counterclaim alleged respondent had not complied with the terms of the lease, all of which respondent denied.

Respondent's second action sought foreclosure of a chattel mortgage, given in connection with the lease. Appellants, by cross-complaint and counterclaim set up respondent's breach of the lease, and asked for damages arising therefrom. The two cases were consolidated for trial by stipulation of the parties. The case was tried before the court and a jury who were called upon to answer certain interrogatories, after which the court made and filed its findings of fact which did not follow the findings of the jury, and made and entered judgment on his findings of fact and conclusions of law, in favor of plaintiff, from which judgment this appeal is prosecuted.

It is appellant's contention that the jury's answers to the interrogatories submitted to them amounted to a special verdict, and they assign as error the court's refusal to enter judgment on this special verdict of the jury, by which action the court deprived appellants of a jury trial guaranteed by the Constitution. Appellants argue that having asserted a "primary legal right" in their counterclaim and cross-complaint, they were entitled to a jury trial, while on the other hand respondent contends that the case was an action in equity, the principal relief sought being the foreclosure of a chattel mortgage and the ejectment of defendants from possession of the premises, and that the question of damages was only incidental and not controlling, and did not entitle defendants to a jury trial thereon. Even though damages were asked in the last action cited, other relief, equitable in its nature, was sought and if the damages were incidental, the controlling features of the first were equitable. (Rees v. Gorham, 30 Idaho 207, 164 P. 88; Cleland v. McLaurin, 40 Idaho 371, 232 P. 571.) Clearly the second action was equitable. (Rees v. Gorham, supra.)

Considering appellants' contention that the court erred in ignoring the verdict of the jury on all issues involving appellants' counterclaim and by making his own findings of fact, a study of the record, and particularly that part of the record wherein the discussion of counsel and the court with respect to the nature of the actions and the purposes of the jury are set out, we are satisfied that there was no understanding that the jury was to sit in other than an advisory capacity. In that part of the record furnished, when plaintiff contended that this was an equity action, while the defendant declared that he understood that it was an action at law, the court declared that he did not know and that they would see as they went along in the case. This question certainly was not settled at that time. A complete record of the proceedings before the trial court was not furnished on this appeal and we have not been apprised of what definite conclusion was reached on this point, and we must conclude from the court's action that an understanding had been reached that the jury was to serve in an advisory capacity. Certainly appellants did not at the outset of the trial insist upon a definite understanding that the two causes of action should be kept separate and treated under the practice outlined in Penninger Lateral Co Ltd., v. Clark, 22 Idaho 397, 126 P. 524, and Hudson v. Kootenai Fox Farms Co., 47 Idaho 58, 272 P. 704; with the trial court considering the consolidated case as an...

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12 cases
  • Anderson v. Whipple, 7555
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • January 30, 1951
    ...256; Shields v. Johnson, 10 Idaho 476, 79 P. 391, 3 Ann.Cas. 245; Morton v. Morton Realty Co., 41 Idaho 729, 241 P. 1014; Johnson v. Niichels, 48 Idaho 654, 284 P. 840; Fogelstrom v. Murphy, 70 Idaho ----, 222 P.2d The district court has 'original jurisdiction in all cases, both at law and ......
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    • September 6, 1988
    ...a jury trial on the legal claims contained in his action, permissive and not compulsory counterclaims were involved. Johnson v. Niichels, 48 Idaho 654, 284 P. 840 (1930), (counterclaim for breach of lease); Fogelstrom v. Murphy, 70 Idaho 488, 222 P.2d 1080 (1950), (cross-complaint for wrong......
  • Craig v. Lane, 6612
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • April 20, 1939
    ...... Hollingsworth, 6 Idaho 87, 53 P. 211, 96 Am. St. 256;. Shields v. Johnson, 10 Idaho 476, 79 P. 391, 3 Ann. Cas. 245; Neil v. Public Utilities Com., 32 Idaho. 44, 178 P. ......
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    • March 18, 1955
    ...guarantee of jury trial does not apply to equity cases. Morton v. Morton Realty Co., 41 Idaho 729, 241 P. 1014; Johnson v. Niichels, 48 Idaho 654, 284 P. 840; Brady v. Place, 41 Idaho 747, 242 P. 314, 243 P. 654. Therefore, Wassler and Burns could not demand as a matter of right a trial by ......
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