Stults v. Brown

Decision Date29 November 1887
Citation14 N.E. 230,112 Ind. 370
PartiesStults and others v. Brown, Adm'r.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court


Appeal from circuit court, Huntington county; M. Winfield, Judge.

B. M. Cobb, B. F. Ibach, and Geo. W. Stults, for appellants. Branyan, Spencer & Branyan, for appellee.

Elliott, J.

John Stults was appointed the administrator of the estate of Conrad Forst, deceased, on the first day of June, 1873. The personal property of the estate was insufficient to pay the debts, and he petitioned for an order to sell real estate. His petition was granted and the order made. On this order sale was made to Joseph Best for $1,602. This was more than the appraised value of the land. Subsequently the sale was approved and the deed confirmed. The purchase money was paid in full, and final settlement of the estate was made. After the final settlement Best sold the land to John Stults, who paid for it the sum of $1,600. Some time after this purchase the widow of Conrad Forst brought an action against John Stults, Joseph Best, and the heirs of Conrad Forst, deceased. On the trial of this case it was discovered that there was some irregularity in the proceedings, and the parties agreed that the sale should be set aside, and it was so adjudged. Before further proceedings were had, John Stults, the purchaser from Joseph Best, died, leaving as his heirs these appellants. The appellee was subsequently appointed administrator de bonis non of the estate of Conrad Forst. The parties agree as to the facts, but differ as to the law.

We do not believe that the appellees have shown a right to the specific performance. The judgment setting aside the sale must be regarded as conclusive. That judgment establishes the invalidity of the sale, and consequently no title flowed from it. This effectually bars a right to enforce specific performance. A further question remains. The father of the appellees paid $1,600 in good faith, and in expectation of securing title to the land he bargained for, and this money he ought not to lose. This result is forbidden by equity and good conscience. The estate has this money, or it has been used for its benefit. The title to the land which John Stults bargained for is still in the heirs of the decedent, and there is no necessity for resorting to proceedings to compel creditors to refund. That probably could not be done, as there is no warranty of title. The land, however may still be made assets, if there is a deficiency of personal property. Under these circumstances we think the appellants ought not to be sent from the courts without relief, and the only debatable question that can arise is as to the nature of the relief to be awarded. There is a clear equitable right to the money paid by their ancestor. Where there is a right there is a remedy, and there is one here. Where there is a clear equitable claim on land, the claimant will not be turned away remediless. There is such a thing as a vendee's lien, and the appellees are entitled to it. This lien is the creation of courts of equity, and is a beneficent and just one. Jones v. French, 92 Ind. 141;Seller v. Lingerman, 24 Ind. 264; 1 Pom. Eq. Jur. § 167; 3 Pom. Eq. Jur. § 1263; 2 Story, Eq. Jur. 1231; Overt. Liens, 694. The equities of a vendee who pays money on a contract of sale are as strong as those of a vendor who does not receive full payment for the land he sells. The principle which applies in such cases is closely analogous to the principle of subrogation. Lowery v. Byers, 80 Ind. 443;Stout v. Duncan, 87 Ind. 387;Dunning v. Seward, 90 Ind. 63;Short v. Sears, 93 Ind. 506;Curtis v. Gording, 99 Ind. 45.

We have no doubt that the appellants are entitled to the equitable lien of a vendee, but we are not so clear that their petition proceeds on this theory. Our conclusion...

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