Varga v. Woods, 14675

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Citation42 UCCRep.Serv. 1378,381 N.W.2d 247
Docket NumberNo. 14675,14675
Parties42 UCC Rep.Serv. 1378 Lillian B. VARGA, Plaintiff, v. Dean E. WOODS, Glenda R. Woods, and David O'Neill, Defendants and Appellees, and Robert A. Gray, Defendant and Appellant, and Ronald D. Vick, Defendant.
Decision Date29 January 1986

Thomas F. Burns, of Gribbin, Burns & Eide, Watertown, for defendants and appellees Woods.

Bruce M. Ford, Sioux Falls, for defendant and appellee O'Neill; Thomas J. Green, of Green, Schultz & Roby, Watertown, on brief.

Randall L. Seaver, of Morris & Fuller, P.A., Minneapolis, Minn., for defendant and appellant Gray; Arthur M. Hopper, of Austin, Hinderaker, Hackett & Hopper, Watertown, on brief.



This is a strict foreclosure action. It is made complicated by the cross-claims herein and creative financing. We have abridged the briefs so as to reduce an already technical and confused record. An appeal from Judgments entered on cross-claims against Robert Gray (Gray), appellant-defendant and cross-defendant herein, was perfected. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand. Essentially, we hold for Gray, who borrowed money and bought a motel by assuming a Contract for Deed, and then assigned, transferred, and delegated his interests and obligations to one Vick. Vick defaulted and is judgment proof. We are reversing judgments in favor of the assignor (Woods) and the lender (O'Neill), both of whom cross-claimed against Gray and prevailed below. We affirm the trial court's ruling that Gray failed to properly raise the applicability of Minnesota usury law.


On June 30, 1980, plaintiff Lillian Varga (Varga) and Dean and Glenda Woods (Woods), defendants and cross-claimants, entered into a Contract for Deed, wherein the Woods agreed to purchase from Varga a motel located in Watertown.

On July 14, 1981, the Woods assigned their interest in the Varga Contract for Deed to Gray for $20,000 and certain gemstones which were to have a retail value of $101,000. In conjunction with this assignment, the Woods also quitclaimed their rights in the motel to Gray. After receiving an appraisal of the gemstones' value substantially less than the purported $101,000, the Woods returned the gemstones to Gray. On July 28, 1981, Gray executed and delivered to the Woods a note for the principal sum of $46,000. This note, by its terms, was secured by the motel, although a security instrument evidencing this security was not agreed to.

In order to finance this assignment, Gray borrowed money from David O'Neill (O'Neill). On July 14, 1981, O'Neill gave Gray a check for $40,128.76 and Gray gave O'Neill a note for $61,000. The terms of this O'Neill-Gray note called for monthly installments until July 14, 1988. In conjunction with the O'Neill-Gray financial arrangements, Gray and O'Neill agreed that O'Neill would have a mortgage on the motel as security for the payment of the note. On July 27, 1981, Gray executed a mortgage on the motel in favor of O'Neill. This "Mortgage Deed" (a Minnesota form changed for use in South Dakota) was filed on July 28, 1981. On November 13, 1981, the Woods also filed a security instrument against the motel. This was denominated a Property Lien and it stated that it evidenced a lien against the motel property as intended by the Woods-Gray note. Gray, however, did not sign this instrument and was unaware of its filing.

On November 24, 1981, Gray and Ronald Vick (Vick) entered into and executed four separate agreements. The first, denominated Assignment of Purchasers' Interest Under Contract For Deed, assigned and transferred Gray's interest in the Varga Contract for Deed to Vick. The second, denominated Note Assumption, quitclaimed Gray's interest in the motel to Vick and assigned and delegated Gray's obligations under the Woods-Gray note to Vick, who agreed to assume said obligations. Under the third agreement, labeled Assignment of Mortgage, Gray assigned to Vick the O'Neill-Gray note and mortgage covering the motel. By the fourth agreement, denominated Assumption Agreement, Vick assumed and agreed to pay the indebtedness owed by Gray to O'Neill in accordance with the terms of the O'Neill-Gray note and mortgage. Neither O'Neill nor the Woods were privy to or had knowledge of these agreements when executed. Gray, after the execution of these four agreements, believed he had no further obligations under the original notes and mortgage. Vick, upon assuming these obligations, took over possession and operation of the motel.

After the execution of the Gray-Vick agreements, Vick soon became delinquent in his payment obligations. In early 1982, Vick initiated negotiations with O'Neill seeking to alter the terms of the original O'Neill-Gray obligations which Vick had assumed. During these negotiations, Vick's bankruptcy was mentioned and on June 4, 1982, O'Neill and Vick executed an Amendment to Assumption Agreement. This O'Neill-Vick agreement changed the obligations Vick assumed under the O'Neill-Gray note and mortgage by, inter alia, extending the due date of the final installment to May 15, 1992. Vick failed, however, to make payments under this O'Neill-Vick agreement. Gray was not privy to and did not have knowledge of this agreement when executed.

In late 1982, Vick also initiated negotiations with the Woods seeking to alter the terms of the original Woods-Gray obligations which Vick had assumed. Again Vick's bankruptcy was mentioned as an alternative to alteration. These negotiations culminated in the execution of three documents on November 1, 1982. The first document was a Promissory Note by Vick to the Woods in the amount of $38,351.57. The second document was a "Mortgage Deed" granting the Woods a mortgage on the motel in the same principal amount as the Woods-Vick note, and the third document was a Satisfaction of Property Lien in which the Woods released the property lien which they had filed on November 13, 1981. Vick, again, failed to make the required payments. Gray was not privy to and did not have knowledge of these agreements when executed.

On June 30, 1983, Varga filed suit in strict foreclosure naming the Woods, Gray, Vick, and O'Neill as defendants. The Woods cross-claimed against Gray. O'Neill cross-claimed against Gray and Vick. A bench trial was held on November 30, 1983, and Varga was awarded strict foreclosure. Vick failed to appear at these proceedings and was adjudged in default. By separate Judgments dated June 13, 1984, the trial court entered judgment against Gray on the Woods and O'Neill cross-claims in the amounts of $45,559.44 and $76,554.47, respectively. From these Judgments, Gray now appeals. Varga and Vick are not parties to this appeal. Gray presents ten legal issues. We only address the dispositive issues.


Before deciding the dispositive issues, it is necessary to determine the proper relationship of the respective parties.

As stated above, Gray gave the Woods and O'Neill notes evidencing his indebtedness. The initial relationship between these parties was thus that of debtor and creditors. Thereafter, however, Gray transferred, assigned, and delegated his rights and obligations under these instruments to Vick, who assumed and accepted responsibility for the same. Gray thus contends that he was transformed into a surety and that Vick was the principal debtor to the Woods and O'Neill.

The Woods and O'Neill do not arduously dispute Gray's surety contention and we find support therefor in 72 C.J.S. Principal and Surety Sec. 40, at 532 (1951), which states:

A common instance of involuntary suretyship, at least as between the principal and surety themselves, occurs where one party to a contract, as a part of the agreement, assumes an indebtedness owing by the other to a third person, the one assuming the indebtedness becoming the principal, and the former debtor a surety....

... Even though the creditor is not a party to the agreement, it is made for his benefit and he is impliedly included as within the privity thereof, and, if he accepts such agreement, he is bound to observe and respect the relationship of principal and surety arising therefrom, unless it is otherwise specially contracted by the parties.

In the present case, Vick assumed Gray's indebtedness to the Woods and O'Neill and the Woods and O'Neill accepted this by thereafter receiving payments and negotiating terms with Vick. Thus, in this case, the relationship of the parties was that of creditors (the Woods and O'Neill), principal debtor (Vick), and surety (Gray).



The following facts are uncontroverted: (1) O'Neill and Gray are both Minnesota residents; (2) the negotiation, execution, and delivery of the O'Neill-Gray note transpired in Minnesota; and (3) all payments were due in Minnesota and all payments were made in Minnesota. Thus, under ordinary circumstances, Minnesota law would govern the validity of the O'Neill-Gray note and Gray's contention that the note is void as usurious under Minnesota law would be sustainable. See SDCL 53-1-4 and First Nat'l Bank of Sibley, Iowa v. Doeden, 21 S.D. 400, 113 N.W. 81 (1907). However, if a party intends to rely on the possible application of another state's law, that party must give reasonable notice to the adverse parties. SDCL 19-8-4; Associated Press v. Heart of Black Hills, 325 N.W.2d 49 (S.D.1982). In Heart of Black Hills, this Court held the raising of the possible application of another state's law in briefs on appeal was not reasonable notice.

In the present case, counsel for Gray first raised the possible application of Minnesota usury law in his opening comments to the trial court. At this time, counsel for Gray also informed the trial court that copies of the relevant Minnesota statutes were attached to a memorandum that he had submitted that morning. O'Neill asserts that such does not...

To continue reading

Request your trial
10 cases
  • Wolff v. Secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Dept., 19057
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • October 19, 1995
    ...matters constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense. If such an affirmative defense is not pleaded, it is waived." Varga v. Woods, 381 N.W.2d 247, 251 (S.D.1986). However, this does not end the inquiry for this Court has also SDCL 15-6-15(b), however, permits issues not asserted in the......
  • First Dakota Nat. Bank v. Maxon, 18558
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • October 17, 1994
    ...status on a promissory note? In its Memorandum Opinion (incorporated in the findings) the trial court relied on Varga v. Woods, 381 N.W.2d 247, 250 (S.D.1986) (citing 72 C.J.S. Principal and Surety § 40 A common instance of involuntary suretyship, at least as between the principal and suret......
  • In re Sanders, Bankruptcy No. ED 84-90M
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Eighth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Arkansas
    • January 21, 1987
    ...908, 63 Ill.Dec. 704, 708, 438 N.E.2d 635, 639 (1982); First Nat. Bank of Layton v. Egbert, 663 P.2d 85, 87 (Utah 1983); Varga v. Woods, 381 N.W.2d 247, 252 Mr. Sanders' note was payable on demand but if no demand was made then the note was due ninety days from April 7, 1982. The due date o......
  • In re Sanders, Bankruptcy No. ED 84-90M
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Eighth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Arkansas
    • January 21, 1987
    ...908, 63 Ill.Dec. 704, 708, 438 N.E.2d 635, 639 (1982); First Nat. Bank of Layton v. Egbert, 663 P.2d 85, 87 (Utah 1983); Varga v. Woods, 381 N.W.2d 247, 252 The due date of the ninety-day promissory note was originally January 22, 1984, and was extended by an agreement between Mr. Sanders a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT