Trowbridge v. Stone's Adm'r.

Citation42 W.Va. 454
PartiesTrowbridge v. Stone's Adm'r.
Decision Date25 November 1896
CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
1. Witnesses Competency of Witness Insane Persons.

By section 23 of chapter 130 of the Code no person offered as a witness in any civil suit is to be excluded by reason of his interest in the event of the suit, but he shall not be examined as to any personal transaction or communication between such witness and a person at the time of such examination insane as j gainst such insane person or his committee.

2. Witnesses Competency of Witness Statute of Limitations Insane Persons.

This was a suit brought under section 22 of chapter 87 of the Code by plaintiff, M. J. Trowbridge, a person of unsound mind, by her next friend, against the administrator of W. J. Stone, deceased, her committee, to surcharge and falsify the report of the settlement of the account of the committee made and confirmed in pursuance of chapter 87. The testimony of interested non-expert witnesses, the children and heirs of the deceased committee, was offered to prove that they had observed and knew the mental and physical condition of plaintiff, and the amount and value of the labor performed by her for her committee, and that she was too weak, both mentally and physically, to perform for him any labor of any value. Such testimony was properly rejected as incompetent, because it necessarily called out from such witnesses transactions or communications of the insane plaintiff in which these witnesses were interested against her to some extent and in some way participated, within the meaning and policy of the statute excluding them.

3. Statute of Limitations Suits to Surcharge or Falsify.

There is no statute of limitation fixing a time within which such suits to surcharge or falsify must be brought.

4. Laches Equitable Defense Non Compos Persons.

Laches, being the inexcusable delay in asserting a right, is an equitable defense, which implies knowledge or means of knowing one's rights, depending upon the particular facts of each case and therefore can not be imputed to one of unsound mind.

Neil J. Fortney for appellant, cited Code, c. 87, s. 22; Code, c. 130, s. 23; 1 Bart. Chy. Prac. 119; 23 W. Va. 108; 21 W. Va 469; 17 Gratt. 96; 26 W. Va. 207; 14 W. Va. 88; 11 S. E. Rep. 548, 552; 17 S. E. Rep. 701, 704.

P. J. Crogan for appellee, cited 21 W. Va. 469; 23 W. Va. 100; 17 Gratt. 96; 1 Bart. Chy. Pp. 119; 13 Pet. 381; Code, c. 104, s. 16; 16 K J. Eq. 240-2; 12 Am. & Eng. Enc. Law, 554; 2 Yerg. (Tenn.)l93; 152 U. S. Sup. C. Rep. 412; 3 Leigh, 376; 26 W. Va. 175; 21 Gratt. 712; Code, c. 130, s. 23; 11 W. Va. 562; 31 W. Va. 659; 28 W. Va. 412; 11 S. E. Rep. 542; 17 S. E. Rep. 701; 3 L. R. A. 599; 95 N. Y. 316.

Holt, President:

On appeal from a decree of the Circuit Court of Preston county entered in favor of plaintiff on the 3d day of April on a bill to surcharge and falsify the ex parte settlement of the accounts of the intestate of Charles C. Stone as the

committee of plaintiff. On theday of, Samuel

R. Trowbridge died, intestate, leaving several heirs and a considerable estate. Among the heirs was the plaintiff, an imbecile daughter, thirty years of age, suing by her sister and next friend in this suit, Martha Parks, and Harriet Stone, the wife of Charles C. Stone. Charles C. Stone, the son-inlaw7, qualified as the administrator of the estate of Samuel R. Trowbridge, deceased; also as the committee of his imbecile sister-in-law, whom he took into his family, and supported during his life. He charged himself, on October 11, 1865, as her committee, with having received in cash from her father's estate the sum of one hundred and twenty dollars and fifty three cents, and on the 1st day of January with six hundred and ninety six dollars and twenty one cents with twenty seven dollars and eighty five cents interest to January 1, 1878, as cash received for her from the sale of Samuel G. Trowbridge's land. On the 28th day of January, 1871, James W. Parks, one of the commissioners of the county court, made an ex parte settlement of the account of the estate of Margaret J. Trowbridge with William J. Stone, her committee, debiting her estate with her board and clothing from January 1, 1865, to January 1, 1871, and crediting her with the items of one hundred and twrenty dollars and fifty three cents and six hundred and ninety six dollars and twenty one cents already mentioned, and reporting a balance due the ward of two hundred and sixty four dollars and ninety eight cents, with interest from that date. To this report there was no exception, and the county court, by order of April 10, 1871, approved and confirmed the same. The second and last settlement was made before the same commissioner on the 30th of December, 1872, when he reported a balance due the ward's estate of ninety three dollars and eighty eight cents, with interest from the 1st day of January, 1873. This report also was approved and confirmed by the county court by order entered on the 11th day of March, 1873. She remained in the family of her committee until his death, in the year 1883, and after that in the family of the widow, Louisa Stone, her sister, until the sister's death, in 1891. She was then sent to the county poorhouse, where she remained until April, 1892, when her sister and next friend, Martha Parks, took her to her home, and has since kept Margaret J. in her family. In November, 1892, Margaret, as a person of unsound mind, filed her bill by Martha Parks, her next friend, against Charles C. Stone as administrator of the estate of William J. Stone, deceased, surcharging and falisfying his accounts as her committee. The substance of the bill is that she rendered services which at the least paid for her board and clothes, and that her estate was, therefore, wrongfully debited with these charges made by and allowed to her committee. C. C. Stone, the administrator, answered that she was not in good health, was neither able nor willing, nor had she the mental capacity, to do any work that required ordinary intelligence and skill; that during the whole time she was too weak, both mentally and physically, to perform any work for William J. Stone, her committee, of any value; and that his small charges for board and clothes were reasonable and just. Defendant also alleges that the cause of action, if any, did not accrue within five years next before the bringing of this suit. A great deal of evidence was taken, none of which is in this record, and the cause was referred to Commissioner D. M. Wotring to report on the matters in controversy. He made and filed his report, in which he says that William J. Stone had in his hands, of his ward's money, the sum of eight hundred and sixteen dollars and seventy four cents, that the interest thereon from year to year, together with the labor performed by the plaintiff for William J. Stone and his family, as shown by the evidence taken, was amply sufficient to pay and did pay for the boarding, clothing, and maintenance of his ward; and that the various items charged by the committee and allowed by the county court commissioner against the corpus of plaintiff's estate were erroneous, and are disallowed. After making some deductions, he finds a balance due plaintiff of seven hundred and fifty six dollars and ninety four cents, to bear interest from the 11th day of December, 1893. The report was excepted to, specifying the sum allowed as barred by statute of limitations, but the court, by decree of April 3, 1894, overruled the same, and entered a decree for the sum found and reported by the...

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