Snyder v. Cearfoss

Decision Date16 April 1946
Docket Number118.
Citation46 A.2d 607,186 Md. 360
PartiesSNYDER v. CEARFOSS (two cases).
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Appeals from Circuit Court, Frederick County; Patrick M. Schnauffer Judge.

Consolidated actions by Elva B. Snyder, administratrix of the estate of Malinda Summers, deceased, and by Elva B. Snyder administratrix, of the goods not administered, with the will annexed of the estate of Mary A. Hughes, against August M Cearfoss, surviving executrix of the last will and testament of Jesse O. Snyder, deceased, to recover two-thirds of the amount Jesse O. Snyder, deceased, received from the estate of Abraham K. Snyder, on ground that Jesse O. Snyder, deceased allegedly promised that he would give one-third of the estate to Malinda Summers, deceased, and one-third of the estate of Mary A. Hughes, deceased, provided that they would not join in an attack on the will of Abraham k. Snyder. The jury returned verdicts for the plaintiff in each case. From an order granting defendant's motions for new trial, the plaintiff appeals, and the defendant moves to dismiss the appeal.

Douglas H. Gordon, of Baltimore, and W. Clinton McSherry, of Frederick (Ellsworth R. Roulette, of Hagerstown, on the brief), for appellant.

Walter E. Sinn and Parsons Newman, both of Frederick, for appellee.



This appeal involves two cases. In the first, Elva B. Snyder, as administratrix of the estate of her mother, Malinda Summers, sued the surviving executrix of the estate of Jesse O. Snyder for one-third of the amount Jesse O. Snyder received from the estate of Abraham K. Snyder in 1922. In the second, Elva B. Snyder, as administratrix of the estate of her mother's sister, Mary A. Hughes, sued the same defendant for another third of what Jesse O. Snyder received from the estate of Abraham K. Snyder. Abraham K. Snyder was the brother of Mrs. Summers and Mrs. Hughes, but was not related to Jesse O. Snyder, the draftsman and principal beneficiary of the will. Each suit was based upon an alleged promise by Jesse O. Snyder that he would give to Mrs. Summers and Mrs. Hughes, respectively, one-third of the amount he received from their brother's estate, provided they would not join with their brother, Jacob H. Snyder, in an attack upon the will of Abraham K. Snyder.

It appears that Jesse O. Snyder, in the capacity of financial adviser and attorney, handled all of the business transactions of Abraham K. Snyder for at least 25 years prior to his death. Jesse O. Snyder was a practicing attorney, with law offices in Hagerstown and Clear Spring, and the president of two banks. He and his two brothers, Charles and W. Firey, also conducted a general store at Clear Spring. W. Firey Snyder married Elva B. Snyder, the plaintiff, who was the niece of Abraham K. Snyder, and the residuary legatee under the will of her aunt Mrs. Hughes, and the only heir at law of her mother, Mrs. Summers.

The will of Abraham K. Snyder was executed July 26, 1902. The residuary estate was left to Jesse O. Snyder. Upon the death of Abraham K. Snyder, on January 1, 1922, the balance distributed to Jesse O. Snyder was $88,564.85. Some time in the year 1919, Abraham K. Snyder suffered a stroke, and was thereafter admitted to the Laurel Sanitarium. On January 29, 1920, he executed a deed of trust to Jesse O. Snyder, to be administered in the Circuit Court for Washington County, in which the settlor was to be the beneficiary for life, the remainder to pass in accordance with the terms of his will. On May 26, 1921, Abraham K. Snyder was adjudicated a lunatic, the Court appointing Henry F. Wingert and Frederick H. Snyder (a son of Jacob H. Snyder) as committee. The committee thereupon brought a bill in equity to set aside the deed of trust. Upon the death of Abraham K. Snyder, this bill was dismissed. On March 24, 1922, Jacob H. Snyder filed a caveat to the will of his brother, and by a supplemental petition to the Orphans' Court, sought to strike down the probate on the grounds of surprise and fraud. On appeal to this court the probate was sustained. Snyder v. Snyder, 142 Md. 290, 120 A. 710. The caveat was subsequently dismissed. Neither Mrs. Summers nor Mrs. Hughes opposed the probate of the will; in fact, Mrs. Hughes testified before the Orphans' Court that she did not contest her brother's right to do what he pleased with his estate. Record, Id., 142 Md. 290, 120 A. 710. Apparently she was incensed at the part taken by her brother and his son in having Abraham adjudicated a lunatic. A statement to this effect is found in the will of Mrs. Hughes.

In the trial below, a number of witnesses testified to certain promises made by Jesse O. Snyder to Mrs. Summers and Mrs. Hughes, the first occasion being on the date of the funeral of Abraham in 1922, when the will was read to them. Mrs. Hughes died on September 4, 1932, and Mrs. Summers on November 16, 1933. Jesse O. Snyder advanced certain monies to Mrs. Hughes during her lifetime, for which he took notes and entered judgments. As the executor of her will, he distributed the residue of this estate to himself as judgment creditor. Jesse O. Snyder died February 10, 1941. The last occasion upon which he is alleged to have made a statement on the subject was in 1940. This is the only statement within three years prior to the institution of the suits, and hence the only statement that would take the case to the jury, under the plea of limitations, as an acknowledgment of indebtedness. Mrs. Rosilyn M. Snyder, wife of Harold Snyder, a son of W. Firey Snyder, testified that in the summer of 1940 'I should say late July', she heard Jesse O. Snyder say to her father-in-law, in reference to the estate he had acquired from Abraham, 'that had all been taken care of'. On motion, this answer was stricken out. She then testified that Jesse O. Snyder said: 'the money would be paid Elva, my mother-in-law, the money he had promised her aunt and her mother'. In reply to a question by the court as to why he said it would be paid, if he had already said it had been taken care of, she said: 'Maybe I haven't worded it just exactly as he said it, but very much to that effect, that the matter had been taken care of or something to that effect'. A motion to strike out this answer was overruled.

It was conceded that nothing was ever paid to Mrs. Hughes or Mrs. Summers or to Elva Snyder, prior to the death of Jesse O. Snyder, on account of the alleged indebtedness. Under the will of Jesse O. Snyder several pieces of real estate were devised to W. Firey Snyder, either directly or in remainder. The residuary estate was left to his secretary, Miss Cearfoss.

The first of the two present cases was begun on April 2, 1943, in the Circuit Court for Washington County, by titling. The declaration was filed on April 15, 1943. On May 10, the plaintiff filed a motion for judgment nil dicit, on the ground that the defendant had filed no answer within thirty days of the rule day to which she was summoned, and a motion for judgment by default, for want of an affidavit of defense, as required by local rules of court. The defendant thereafter, on May 14, filed affidavit of defense, and, on May 17, answers to the plaintiff's motions. Upon hearing, the court ruled that neither judgment nil dicit nor judgment by default should be entered.

Meanwhile, on April 21, 1943, the case of Elva Snyder, administratrix of the estate of Mrs. Hughes, was filed. Demurrers to both declarations, as particularized, were overruled; the defendant filed (1) pleas of limitations, (2) that the cases were not commenced within nine months after claims filed by Elva against the estate of Jesse O. Snyder had been refused by the defendant in writing, and (3) general issue pleas. The cases were removed to Frederick County, consolidated, and came to trial on May 23, 1945. At the close of the testimony the Court declined to direct verdicts for the plaintiffs, or for the defendant. No exceptions were taken to the court's oral charge. The verdicts of the jury were for $29,521.93 in each case 'and that the sum to be paid by the defendant out of the assets in her hands is $7,978.28' in each case. It had been stipulated that the total assets in the defendant's hands were $15,956.57.

Motions for new trial were filed in each case, and heard on June 23, 1945. On September 14, 1945, the court signed an order granting a new trial, and overruling motions for judgments n.o.v. From that order the appeal to this court was taken. The defendant has filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the ground that no final judgment has been entered, and that no appeal lies from the action of the lower court in granting a new trial. The appellants contend that the action of the court in granting the new trial was an abuse of discretion, an invasion of the province of the jury, and is reviewable in this court.

In passing upon the motion for a new trial (which set forth all of the usual grounds), Judge Woodward, speaking for the three-judge court, said: 'I will not review all the evidence in the case, but I want to just point out some of the high lights that have influenced us in arriving at that conclusion. We are fully aware that the court should not substitute its judgment for that of the jury when the issues have been fairly presented and where there is substantial evidence on both sides and where it is clearly a case for the jury to decide the issues. But Judge Prescott and I feel that because of the nature of this case, because of its character that here is a claim against an estate that could have been presented against Snyder while he was living, and it rocked along for twenty-some years, something like that, and the claim was never...

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  • Owens v. Social Services
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 16, 2008
    ...945, 79 S.Ct. 731, 3 L.Ed.2d 678 (1959); Suttleman v. Bd. of Liq. Lic. Com'rs., 209 Md. 134, 140, 120 A.2d 388 (1956); Snyder v. Cearfoss, 186 Md. 360, 46 A.2d 607 (1946). These cases were discussed by Judge Smith in Resetar v. State Bd. of Education, 284 Md. 537, 399 A.2d 225 (1979), while......
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    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
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  • Winkler v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • November 17, 1949
    ... ... trial. Rulings on motions for a new trial are not appealable ... unless there is an abuse of discretion, Snyder v ... Cearfoss, 186 Md. 360, 46 A.2d 607, which we do not ... find, and we are, therefore, confronted with the final and ... real contention of ... ...
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    • March 23, 2012
    ...A.2d 857, 861 (1966) (An earlier “verdict ... was completely eliminated by the [later] granting of the new trial”); Snyder v. Cearfoss, 186 Md. 360, 367, 46 A.2d 607, 610 (1946) (“It is generally recognized that the effect of granting a motion for a new trial is to leave the cause in the sa......
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