Runyon v. Smith

Decision Date15 October 1883
PartiesRUNYON and others v. SMITH and others.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

This was an action of ejectment, to recover possession of and determine the title to a lot of land in Ingham county. Plaintiffs' chain of title was at follows:

(1) The United States to Edward Mundy. Patent dated January 15, 1837 and proven by certified copy.

(2) Edward Mundy to Clarkson Runyon. Warranty deed, dated July 5 1837, recorded July 31, 1877, 40 years after its execution and delivery.

(3) The death of Clarkson Runyon in 1846, and the inheritance of the plaintiffs as his heirs at law.

The possession of defendants was admitted. Defendants' title was as follows:

(1) Edward Mundy to George Sedgwick,. This was a devise dated January 2, 1851, which became operative in that year by the death of Mundy, and was proven by certified copy of his will from the probate court of the county. This devise did not purport to convey any particular piece of land, but was a general devise to Sedgwick, in trust, of all the lands of which Mundy might die seized, with power to sell and convert them into cash at any time.

(2) George Sedgwick and wife to Charles Shepard. Quitclaim deed dated June 17, 1871, of all of the grantor's 'right, title, and interest' in the property. The deed did not purport or undertake to convey the lands themselves, or to execute the trust.

(3) Charles H. Shepard to Edward W. Sparrow. Quitclaim deed of an undivided half of the property, dated November 28, 1872, for a consideration of $250.

(4) Charles H. Shepard to John J. Bush. Warranty deed, dated December 21, 1872, for the nominal consideration of one dollar.

(5) Edward W. Sparrow and John J. Bush to Enoch Smith. Warranty deed, dated June 22, 1875, for the consideration of $2,400.

By stipulation of the parties the case was submitted to the court without a jury.

E. A. Gott and E. F. Conely, for plaintiffs.

M. V. Montgomery, for defendants.


Upon the retrial of this case, under the statute evidence was given tending to show that Shepard, who bought of George Sedgwick and wife in the year 1871, purchased the lands in actual good faith for $500, and in complete ignorance of any defect in the title. If, as is claimed, he thereby became entitled to the rights of a bona fide purchaser without notice, he could undoubtedly convey a good title to Sparrow and Bush, notwithstanding they may have bought with notice. Godfroy v. Disbrow, Walk. Ch. 260; Shotwell v. Harrison, 22 Mich. 410. The bona fides of a grantee of land is a valuable right incident to his purchase, and to hold that he cannot make a good title to his vendee with notice might seriously impair, and perhaps wholly destroy, the value of his interest.

Assuming, then, for the sake of the argument, that Shepard purchased without notice we are led to inquire whether the rule applied by the court upon the former trial, that the receipt of a quitclaim deed puts the party upon inquiry and prevents his claiming the rights of a bona fide purchaser, is sound, in view of the statutes of this state and the adjudications of the supreme court. If the supreme court of the state has announced a different doctrine, then we should be constrained to apply it here, notwithstanding the opinions of the supreme court of the United States, since it is a rule of real property obligatory upon this court. The enactments relied upon by the defendants read as follows, (Comp. Laws, Sec. 4205:)

'A deed of quitclaim and release, of the form in common use, shall be sufficient to pass all the estate which the grantor could lawfully convey by a deed of bargain and sale. ' Sec. 4231: 'Every conveyance of real estate within this state * * * which shall not be recorded, * * * shall be void as against any subsequent purchasers in good faith, and for a valuable consideration,' etc.

In support of the proposition that the supreme court has construed this as giving to purchasers under quitclaim deeds the same rights that purchasers under warranty deeds would have, we are referred to the case of Battershall v. Stephens, 34 Mich. 74, wherein it is said to be laid down in the supreme court of the United States, contrary to what our statute requires, that the bare fact that the deed set up against an unrecorded conveyance is a quitclaim, is sufficient notice to deprive the grantee in it of the character of a purchaser in good faith. ' The case did not call for this expression of opinion, as the court held that the documentary evidence showed distinctly that the plaintiff was not a purchaser in good faith. The remark was simply thrown out as an illustration that there might be 'honest incidents having a recognized legal influence to give the transaction (the sale of land) a determinate character, and one not answering to the legal idea denoted by the expression in the statute. ' Indeed, the observation was something less than a dictum.

The sections in question (and we are referred to no other) certainly contain nothing directly upon the subject of notice. Indeed, by section 4231 the vital question of 'good faith' is expressly left open. It is only the 'purchaser in good faith' that his protected. What, then, was the object of the enactment? That it was intended to change the existing law, or to settle some disputed question, we are bound to presume. Its purport is entirely clear. At common law a deed of release was operative only when made to a party in actual possession of the land. It was intended to enable a person who had bought lands and entered into possession in good faith, to buy in the reversion or to protect himself against outstanding titles. If another party was in possession, the deed was inoperative and void. Where the right of property and the possession were united in the same person, a conveyance could only be made by feoffment and livery of seizin. Wash. Real Prop. 356, 359; Porter v. Perkins, 5 Mass. 236; Warren v. Childs, 11 Mass. 222; Somes v. Skinner, 3 Pick. 58; Thacher v. Cobb, 5 Pick. 423; Russell v. Coffin, 8 Pick. 143; Bennett v. Irwin, 3 Johns. 366.

To obviate the injustice which was constantly occasioned by the general misunderstanding as to the effect of quitclaim deeds, and to give effect to the obvious intention of the parties in such cases, a statute was passed in Massachusetts declaring, in the precise language of section 4205 above quoted, that a deed of quitclaim and release of the form in common use in that state should be sufficient to pass all the estate which the grantor could lawfully convey by a deed of bargain and sale. The statutes of Massachusetts upon the subject of real estate having been adopted in this state, this section was incorporated with the rest. I am unable to see how it bears in any way upon the question under consideration. The other cases cited from the Michigan reports (Eaton v. Trowbridge, 38 Mich. 454; Stetson v. Cook, 39 Mich. 735,) are equally indecisive. In other states the opinions of the courts are conflicting. In Illinois, Colorado, and Missouri the rule seems to be that a purchaser without notice under a quitclaim deed will be protected. In Alabama and Iowa the contrary is held. Butterfield v. Smith, 11 Ill. 485; Brown v. Banner, etc., Coal Co. 97 Ill. 214; Bradbury v. Davis, 5 Colo. 265; Fox v. Hill, 74 Mo. 315; Walker v. Miller, 11 Ala. 1067-1082; SmithS Heirs v. Branch Bank, 21 Ala. 125; Derrick v. Brown, 66 Ala. 162; Springer v. Bartle, 46 Iowa, 688.

Turning to the supreme court of the United States as the ultimate arbiter of the controversy, we find it stated in Oliver v. Piatt, 3 How. 333, 410,...

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7 cases
  • Hancock v. McAvoy
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 3 Octubre 1892
    ... ... 275. A grantee in ... quitclaim deed is not bona fide purchaser as against grantee ... under previous unrecorded conveyance: Runyon v ... Smith, 18 F. 579; Hastings v. Nissen, 31 F ... 597; U.S. v. Sliney, 21 F. 894; Wallerton v ... Snow, 15 F. 401; Dickerson v. Colgrove, ... ...
  • Lindblom v. Rocks
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • 18 Junio 1906
    ...(U.S.) 217, 20 L.Ed. 50; villa v. Rodriguez, 12 Wall. (U.S.) 323, 20 L.Ed. 406; Baker v. Humphrey, 101 U.S. 494, 25 L.Ed. 1065; Runyon v. Smith (C.C.) 18 F. 579; Dodge Briggs (C.C.) 27 F. 167; Gest v. Packwood (C.C.) 34 F. 368; Baker v. Woodward, 12 Or. 3, 16 P. 173; American Mortgage Co. v......
  • Johnson v. Williams
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    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • 9 Julio 1887
    ... ... id. 217, 232; Villa v. Rodriguez, 79 id. 323; ... Dickerson v. Colgrove, 100 id. 578, 584; Baker ... v. Humphrey, 101 id. 494, 499; Runyon v. Smith, ... 18 F. 579; United States v. Sliney, 21 id. 895; ... Watson v. Phelps, 40 Iowa 482; Smith v ... Dunton, 42 id. 48; Besore v. Dosh, ... ...
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    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • 1 Julio 1912
    ... ... 128, 22 N.E. 494, 17 Am.St.Rep ... 281; Lowden v. Wilson, 233 Ill. 340, 346, 84 N.E. 245; Delano ... v. Bennett, 90 Ill. 533; Runyon v. Smith (C. C.) 18 F. 579, ... 581; Strong v. Whybark, 204 Mo. 341, 102 S.W. 968, 12 L.R.A ... (N. S.) 240, 120 Am.St.Rep. 710; Babcock v. Wells, ... ...
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