Waters v. Waters

Decision Date27 November 1866
Citation26 Md. 53
PartiesWILLIAM A. WATERS et al. v. WASHINGTON WATERS and Ellen M. Waters.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Where a verdict is found upon evidence not legally admissible, or upon a misdirection of the court, and it can be seen upon a consideration of the whole case that the verdict is inequitable the court may, upon motion, set the verdict aside and grant a new trial; but if the verdict is substantially right and accords with the real merits of the case, the court may without regard to antecedent mistakes in law or fact refuse a new trial and let the verdict stand.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County:

This is a motion to dismiss an appeal which was taken from an order of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, granting a motion by the caveatees for a new trial in a case of issues from the Orphans' Court of Montgomery County, and overruling a motion of the caveators, that the caveatees be required to elect between their said motion and their exceptions reserved at the trial. The facts of the case, upon which these motions are made, are these:

The will of Tilghman Waters was admitted to probate in Montgomery County, and subsequently a caveat was filed thereto by the appellants, and seven issues were, after answer filed by the appellees, sent by the Orphans' Court to the Circuit Court of Montgomery County for trial, as follows:

1st. Whether the said paper writing filed by said Dr. Washington Waters, was executed by said Tilghman Waters when he was of sound and disposing mind, and capable of executing a valid deed or contract.

2nd. Whether the said paper writing was executed and attested, as required by law, to pass the title to real estate.

3rd. Whether the said paper writing was executed by said Tilghman Waters under the influence of suggestions and importunities when his mind, from its diseased or enfeebled state, was unable to resist the same.

4th. Was the said paper writing, and the execution thereof, the free and voluntary act of said Tilghman Waters, to which he was induced, with a knowledge of its contents and without the exercise of a dominion or influence by some person or persons which prevented, in his then condition, the exercise of a sound discretion.

5th. Was the execution of said paper writing procured by undue influence, fraudulent devices, importunities misrepresentations and deceits practiced on the said Tilghman Waters.

6th. Was the execution of said paper writing procured by the exercise of an undue influence, dominion or control over the said Tilghman Waters obtained over him by his wife, Eleanor M. Waters, and which in his then condition he was unable to resist.

7th. Was the said Tilghman Waters, at any time subsequent to the execution of said paper writing, desirous of altering or cancelling the same, and was he prevented from so doing by management, fraud, undue influences or importunities.

The trial of these issues was, on suggestion, moved first to Howard and then to Anne Arundel County, where the trial was had.

In the course of the trial, three exceptions were taken by the appellees. The first, to the ruling of the court deciding that the caveators had the right to open and conclude the argument before the jury. The second, to the ruling of the court overruling the appellee's objection to the competency of Zadok M. Waters, one of the caveators, and one of the heirs-at-law of said Tilghman Waters, to testify as a witness for the caveators. The third, to the ruling of the court overruling the appellee's objection to allowing the witness, Hammond Sollers, to state his opinion of the mental capacity of Tilghman Waters to make a valid deed or contract upon the ground that sufficient facts had not been stated by the witness to lay the foundation for the expression of such opinion to the jury.

The jury rendered a verdict for the caveators on the first issue and for the caveatees on all the other issues. The caveatees then moved for a new trial, upon the grounds that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, and that the finding and verdict of the jury on the first and fourth issues are inconsistent and contradictory. The caveators then moved the court to require the caveatees to elect between the exceptions taken by them to the rulings of the court on the trial, and their motion for a new trial, and insisted that the court should not entertain the motion for a new trial until such election was made. The court (Tuck, J.,) overruled the caveators' motion to put the caveatees to an election, and granted the caveatees' motion for a new trial, and filed the following opinion on each of these motions.

"In the matter of issues on the caveat to the will of Tilghman Waters.

Motion for a new trial on the part of the caveatees; and motion on the part of the caveators, that the caveatees be required to elect between their said motion and their exceptions reserved at the trial.

In Lee v. Tinges, 7 Md. 215, it was said, that where the questions presented by the exceptions are the same with those on which the new trial is asked, the party should be put to his election; but that is not the case here; the questions are altogether different, and the reasons by which that decision may be supported have no application to the present case. In Mitchell v. Mitchell, 11 G. & J. 388, the County Court refused to hear the motion for a new trial, because the party would not abandon his exceptions; but in Townshend's Will, 9 Gill, 506, the court heard and overruled the motion for a new trial, without requiring the party to elect between his motion and the exceptions.

The case went to the Court of Appeals, and no notice was taken of the question, although presented in argument. Now, it seems to me, as that objection to the appeal being heard was fatal to the appellants, if well taken, the court would not have passed the point in silence and reversed the judgment on the exceptions, if in their opinion the appellants had forfeited their right to be heard on the exceptions; they must have thought that the motion for a new trial might in that case have been made and entertained without abandoning the appeal. If the law in Maryland had been considered as settled, that in all cases, a motion for a new trial would not be heard unless the party making that motion abandoned his exceptions, or that the motion operated as a waiver of the exceptions, I cannot doubt that the Court of Appeals, in Lee v. Tinges, supra, would have said so. The case there put, where the motion would have such effect on the exception, seems to exclude the conclusion that it would so operate in one like the present, where the points raised by the exceptions and motion are not the same. See also 6 How. 283. The motion on the part of the caveators, that the other side be put to their election, is overruled.

I have given to the motion for a new trial the greatest consideration of which I am capable, with every disposition to regard the principle that verdicts should not be disturbed, except upon the most cogent reasons. In a case like the present, where the number of witnesses is so great, their attendance here so inconvenient, and the cost and other expenses so heavy, it is much to be regretted that the verdict is not such as the parties may be made to abide by. But these circumstances do not affect the principle on which the law of new trials is founded. Whenever the occasion arises, it is as much the duty of courts to allow new trials in the exercise of a sound judicial discretion looking to the purpose of justice, as to obey the law in having a first trial. This doctrine is well settled, though I am at all times unwilling to act upon it, because of the effect that frequent new trials are calculated to have upon the administration of justice, which ought to challenge public confidence.

In the present case, however, I am relieved from the necessity of passing upon the correctness of the verdict in connection with the testimony laid before the jury. It will be tried again as free from all influence of any opinion I may have formed of the merits of the case, as if it never had been tried before me.

One reason assigned in support of the motion is based on the insufficiency of the verdict. There being alleged repugnancy between the finding on the first issue and that on the fourth; and that objection I think is well taken.

It is not my province to enter judgment on this verdict; that duty the law devolves on the Orphans' Court of Montgomery County.

These issues were designed to advertise that tribunal of the truth of the matter put in controversy by the plenary proceedings, so that it might act understandingly in admitting or rejecting the paper propounded as the will of the deceased. The trial here is merely auxiliary to the final proceedings in the Orphans' Court, to enable those Judges to pronounce the proper judgment, and to that end, the verdict must not be insufficient in law, indefinite, vague or uncertain; if defective in any of these respects, no judgment can be rendered thereon by the Orphans' Court, and a new trial is necessary. Pegg v. Warford, 4 Md. 385. Warford v. Colvin, 14 Md. 532. See also Browne v. Browne, 22 Md. 103. 1864, Code, Art. 93, sec. 250.

The verdict on the first issue declares, that the deceased at the time of making the will, was not of sound and disposing mind and capable of executing a valid deed or contract, which means (as explained by the Court of Appeals, in Davis v. Calvert, 5 G. & J. 269, and Colvin v. Warford, 20 Md. 357,) that he had not 'sufficient capacity at that time to make a disposition of his estate with judgment and understanding in reference to the amount and situation of his property, and the relative claims of the different persons who should...

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8 cases
  • Snyder v. Cearfoss
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • 16 Abril 1946
    ...100 Md. 344, 60 A. 17, 108 Am.St.Rep. 433; Baltimore & O. v. Brydon, 65 Md. 198, 230, 611, 3 A. 306, 9 A. 126, 57 Am.Rep. 318; Waters v. Waters, 26 Md. 53; Morrison v. Whiteside, 17 Md. 452, 460, 79 661; Anderson v. State, 5 Her. & J. 174, 175; Poe, Practice (Tiffany's Ed.) § 439; Evans, Pr......
  • Bonner v. Celanese Corp. of America
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • 18 Mayo 1949
    ... ... motion for a new trial is not appealable. Morrison v ... Whiteside, 17 Md. 452, 460, 79 Am.Dec. 661; Waters ... v. Waters, 26 Md. 53; Baltimore & O. Railroad v ... Brydon, 65 Md. 198, 230, 3 A. 306, 9 A. 126, 57 Am.Rep ... 318; Stern v. Bennington, 100 ... ...
  • Gross v. Wood
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • 31 Enero 1911
    ... ... special order to set it aside, and sweeps away the verdict, ... and leaves the case as though no trial had been had." In ... the case of Waters v. Waters, 28 Md. 11, Chief Judge ... Bartol, referring to the granting of a motion for a new ... trial, said: "The verdict having been set aside ... ...
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    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • 5 Abril 1916
    ...on a motion for a new trial. Railway Co. v. Sewell, 35 Md. 238, 6 Am. Rep. 402; Sauer v. Schulenberg, 33 Md. 288, 3 Am. Rep. 174; Waters v. Waters, 26 Md. 53; Zitzer Jones, 48 Md. 115. That portion of this exception which relates to the entry of the judgment upon the verdict of the jury was......
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