Reggio v. Warren

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtSHELDON
Citation207 Mass. 525,93 N.E. 805
Decision Date06 January 1911
PartiesREGGIO v. WARREN.

207 Mass. 525
93 N.E. 805

REGGIO
v.
WARREN.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.

Jan. 6, 1911.


Case Reserved from Supreme Judicial Court, Suffolk County.

Bill by Andrew C. Reggio against Winslow Warren, trustee, in which Mary Frances Caridia and others petitioned and were allowed to be joined as defendants. On reservation. Decree for plaintiff.


[207 Mass. 531]J. F. Cusick, for complainant.

M. Storey, for defendant Warren.


E. R. Anderson, G. A. Sweetser, and T. L. Wiles, for other defendants.

SHELDON, J.

We assume, under the language of the reservation, that these remaindermen, who at their request have been [207 Mass. 532]admitted as parties defendant, did not waive their demurrer by going to a hearing on the merits.

They contend that the bill upon its face shows negligence in the plaintiff, on the grounds that he did nothing to ascertain by

[93 N.E. 806]

his own investigation the facts upon which his right depended, or to determine what his rights were; that he relied merely on the assurances of his cotrustees, believing in their judgment and wisdom, and now resting upon an allegation that he and ‘all of the trustees believed that under said will and under the circumstances which then existed said trustees had full power and authority, the complainant assenting, to retain in manner aforesaid the sum to which the complainant was entitled, and instead of distributing said sum in cash to the complainant to give said complainant a promissory note as aforesaid, which note should be in all respects valid and binding upon the trust estate.’ These defendants insist that there is no allegation in the bill that he had a right to rely on or to believe his cotrustees, nothing to show upon what the belief of the trustees or his own belief was based, or to indicate that it was a reasonable belief or one that should have been relied on.

The bill does not proceed upon any claim of deceit or fraud; and the decisions in which it has been held that there are fraudulent representations of such a character that one cannot be justified in believing them or in acting upon them are not applicable. Even in such cases the strictness of the old rule has been somewhat relaxed, in order that parties guilty of actual fraud may not too easily escape from liability for their wrongdoing by setting up the undue guilelessness of their victim. Way v. Ryther, 165 Mass. 226, 229, 42 N. E. 1128;Kilgore v. Bruce, 166 Mass. 136, 138, 44 N. E. 108;Mabardy v. McHugh, 202 Mass. 148, 149, 150, 88 N. E. 894,23 L. R. A. (N. S.) 487, 132 Am. St. Rep. 484, and cases cited. This bill proceeds purely on the ground of a mutual mistake on the part of persons who were in confidential relations with each other, who were not undertaking to deal with each other at arm's length, and who desired to give to the plaintiff and his sister their legal rights in such a manner as to avoid causing thereby any loss to the body of the trust estate by forcing its property and securities upon a depressed and reluctant market. There was here no violation of any legal duty owed by the [207 Mass. 533]plaintiff to the other parties, his cotrustees, with whom he was dealing; there was nothing to indicate that his acting upon their common belief and refraining from requiring them to pay to him in cash the money to which he was entitled could result, or that it has resulted, in any loss or injury to the trust estate or to these remaindermen. He is not to be charged with any such laches or acquiescence as was found in Stone v. Godfrey, 5 De G., M. & G. 76. Under more stringent circumstances it could not be said that the bill showed such negligence on his part as to preclude him from obtaining relief. See the cases collected in 2 Pomeroy, Equity Jurisprudence, § 856. the demurrer cannot be sustained on this ground.

These defendants also contend that the mistake set forth in the bill was a pure mistake of law, for which no redress can be given. It is a general doctrine that, as it is the duty of every one to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law, so all men must be treated, alike in courts of civil and of criminal jurisdiction, as being aware of the duties and obligations which are imposed upon them by the law, and that ordinarily one cannot successfully ask for affirmative relief or defend himself against an otherwise well-founded claim, on the bare ground that he was either ignorant of the law or mistaken as to what it prescribed. Powell v. Smith, L. R. 14 Eq. 85; Rogers v. Ingham, 3 Ch. D. 98; Freeman v. Curtis, 51 Me. 140, 81 Am. Dec. 564; Rice v. Dwight Manuf. Co., 2 Cush. 80;Taylor v. Buttrick, 165 Mass. 547, 43 N. E. 507,52 Am. St. Rep. 530;Wheaton Building & Lumber Co. v. Boston, 204 Mass. 218, 226, 90 N. E. 598. But it is now well settled that this rule is not invariably to be applied. In some cases where great injustice would be done by its enforcement, this has been avoided by declaring that a mistake as to the title to property or as to the existence of certain particular rights, though caused by an erroneous idea as to the legal effect of a deed or as to the duties or obligations created by an agreement, was really a mistake of fact and not strictly one of law, and so did not constitute an insuperable bar to relief. Wilcox v. Lucas, 121 Mass. 21, 25;Livingstone v. Murphy, 187 Mass. 315, 72 N. E. 1012,105 Am. St. Rep. 400;Busiere v. Reilly, 189 Mass. 518, 75 N. E. 958;Eustis Manuf. Co. v. Saco Brick Co., 198 Mass. 212, 84 N. E. 449; Blakeman v. Blakeman, 39 Conn. 320; McCarthy v. De Caix, 2 Russ. & M. 614, 621. In other cases, a distinction between ignorance or mistake as to a [207 Mass. 534]general rule of law prescribing conduct and establishing rights and duties, and one as to the private right or interests of a party under a written instrument, has been laid down; and it has been declared that while relief could not be given by reason of a mistake of the former kind, one of the latter kind shared by both parties to an agreement and resulting in a loss of the rights of one of them, may be set aside at the suit of the injured party, though no fraud was practiced upon him. The distinction taken is between the general law of the country, for ignorance of which no one is excused, and private rights which depend upon the existence of particular facts and the rules which the law declares as to those facts. Cooper v. Phibbs, L. R. 2 H. L. 149, 170; Beauchamp v. Winn, L. R. 6 H. L. 223; In re Oliver's Trusts, [1905] 1 Ch. 191, 197, 198; State v. Paup, 13 Ark. 129, 56 Am. Dec. 303. In other cases, sometimes as the ground of decision and sometimes merely in...

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58 practice notes
  • Bjork v. Chrysler Corp., No. 84-131
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 27, 1985
    ...Pacific Ry. Co. v. Dashiell, 198 U.S. 521, 25 S.Ct. 737, 49 L.Ed. 1150 (1905); Union Pacific Ry. Co. v. Artist, supra; Reggio v. Warren, 207 Mass. 525, 93 N.E. 805 (1911); Williams v. Riley, Mo.App., 243 S.W.2d 122 (1951); Grumley v. Webb, 44 Mo. 444 (1869); Kent v. Fair, 392 Pa. 272, 140 A......
  • Markell v. Sidney B. Pfeifer Foundation, Inc.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • May 29, 1980
    ...for declaring rescission of an instrument where the mistake was mutually held by the parties to it, see e. g., Reggio v. Warren, 207 Mass. 525, 533-535, 93 N.E. 805 (1911); Coolidge v. Loring, 235 Mass. 220, 224-225, 126 N.E. 276 (1920); White v. White, 346 Mass. 76, 79-80, 190 N.E.2d 102 (......
  • Mickelson v. Barnet
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • January 19, 1984
    ...as a mistake of law. 3 There has never been a rule that equity will afford relief only in case of mistake of fact. Reggio v. Warren, 207 Mass. 525, 533-535, 93 N.E. 805 (1911). Indeed, the opposite was recognized in 1859 by [390 Mass. 792] this court in an opinion by Chief Justice Shaw. See......
  • Piea Realty Co. v. Papuzynski
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • March 14, 1961
    ...of transaction in 1956 which might not carry out this intention in the light of the risks of intervening claims. See Reggio v. Warren, 207 Mass. 525, 533-538, 93 N.E. 805, 32 L.R.A.,N.S., 340; Franz v. Franz, 308 Mass. 262, 266-267, 32 N.E.2d 253, 135 A.L.R. 1448; Williston, Contracts (Rev.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
58 cases
  • Bjork v. Chrysler Corp., No. 84-131
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 27, 1985
    ...Pacific Ry. Co. v. Dashiell, 198 U.S. 521, 25 S.Ct. 737, 49 L.Ed. 1150 (1905); Union Pacific Ry. Co. v. Artist, supra; Reggio v. Warren, 207 Mass. 525, 93 N.E. 805 (1911); Williams v. Riley, Mo.App., 243 S.W.2d 122 (1951); Grumley v. Webb, 44 Mo. 444 (1869); Kent v. Fair, 392 Pa. 272, 140 A......
  • Markell v. Sidney B. Pfeifer Foundation, Inc.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • May 29, 1980
    ...for declaring rescission of an instrument where the mistake was mutually held by the parties to it, see e. g., Reggio v. Warren, 207 Mass. 525, 533-535, 93 N.E. 805 (1911); Coolidge v. Loring, 235 Mass. 220, 224-225, 126 N.E. 276 (1920); White v. White, 346 Mass. 76, 79-80, 190 N.E.2d 102 (......
  • Mickelson v. Barnet
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • January 19, 1984
    ...as a mistake of law. 3 There has never been a rule that equity will afford relief only in case of mistake of fact. Reggio v. Warren, 207 Mass. 525, 533-535, 93 N.E. 805 (1911). Indeed, the opposite was recognized in 1859 by [390 Mass. 792] this court in an opinion by Chief Justice Shaw. See......
  • Piea Realty Co. v. Papuzynski
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • March 14, 1961
    ...of transaction in 1956 which might not carry out this intention in the light of the risks of intervening claims. See Reggio v. Warren, 207 Mass. 525, 533-538, 93 N.E. 805, 32 L.R.A.,N.S., 340; Franz v. Franz, 308 Mass. 262, 266-267, 32 N.E.2d 253, 135 A.L.R. 1448; Williston, Contracts (Rev.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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