Watson v. Wall, No. 17830

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtLEGGE; The Honorable G. Badger Baker; TAYLOR
Citation239 S.C. 109,121 S.E.2d 427
PartiesW. C. WATSON, As Administrator Cum Testamento Annexo of the Estate of S. J. Wall, and the Attorney General of the State of South Carolina, Respondents, v. Sadie L. WALL, Individually and as Executrix of the Will of W. Furman Wall, Appellant.
Decision Date31 August 1961
Docket NumberNo. 17830

Page 427

121 S.E.2d 427
239 S.C. 109
W. C. WATSON, As Administrator Cum Testamento Annexo of the
Estate of S. J. Wall, and the Attorney General of
the State of South Carolina, Respondents,
v.
Sadie L. WALL, Individually and as Executrix of the Will of
W. Furman Wall, Appellant.
No. 17830.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Aug. 31, 1961.

[239 S.C. 110] James B. Dixon, Woods & Woods, Marion, for appellant.

Norton & Norton, J. Malcolm McLendon, Marion, for respondent.

[239 S.C. 111] LEGGE, Justice.

Plaintiff, as administrator c. t. a. of the estate of S. J. Wall, instituted this action in September, 1956, for partition of a tract of two hundred fifty acres, consisting principally of timber land in Marion County, that had been owned by S. J. Wall's mother, Sarah J. Richardson Wall, at the time of her death in 1932, and title to which had thereupon vested in her six surviving children. The complaint alleged that subsequent

Page 428

to his mother's death one of said children, W. Furman Wall, had conveyed his interest in the property to his brother, the said S. J. Wall.

Sadie L. Wall, individually and as executrix of the will of W. Furman Wall, was permitted to intervene as a party defendant. By her answer she alleged that at the time of his conveyance to S. J. Wall, on April 5, 1939, W. Furman Wall was mentally incompetent, and that said deed had been obtained from him by fraud, duress, and undue influence, and for the grossly inadequate consideration of $600; and she prayed that it be set aside upon her payment to the estate of S. J. Wall of said sum, plus interest, or be declared an equitable mortgage and cancelled upon such payment. She appeals from an adverse decree.

By consent of the parties, the timber on the tract of land in question was sold on November 4, 1957, for $133,239.30 and by like consent the land was sold on February 3, 1958, for $23,150. The net proceeds of both sales have been distributed among the parties according to their respective interests, except that $24,149.60, representing the proceeds of sale of the one-sixth interest conveyed by the deed under attack is being held by the Judge of Probate for Marion County pending determination of this action.

Testimony before the Special Referee as to the value of the whole tract in 1939 ranged from $4,000 to $40,000. Its valuation as agreed upon between [239 S.C. 112] S. J. Wall and W. Furman Wall for the purpose of the conveyance by the latter of his one-sixth interest in April of that year was $3,600. Without attempting precisely to fix the actual value of the grantor's one-sixth interest at the time of his conveyance of it, the Special Referee found that it was more than the $600 that S. J. Wall had paid for it, but not so greatly in excess of that amount as to shock the judicial conscience. That finding, in which the Circuit Judge concurred, was amply supported by evidence of the very low market values in 1939 of land and timber as compared with the high prices prevailing in 1957 and 1958, and by evidence of the growth of timber during the interval of nearly twenty years between those dates. Also pertinent to the finding was the fact that W. Furman Wall's interest was an undivided fractional one.

The Special Referee, adverting to the conflict in the evidence as to W. Furman Wall's mental and physical condition at the time of his execution of the deed, concluded that he did not at that time have sufficient mental capacity to fully evaluate the property and his interest therein; and that his brother S. J. Wall, a man of superior ability, had taken undue advantage of him in the transaction, particularly by stating to him, in a letter some two months prior to the date of the execution of the deed, that 'it will cost more than your interest is worth to divide it in the courts.' He accordingly recommended that the deed be set aside upon payment to the administrator c. t. a. of the estate of S. J. Wall of the sum of $600, with interest from April 21, 1939, which was the date upon which the consideration for the deed of April 5, 1939, had been paid. We note here that tender of this amount prior to the intervention had been waived, it being agreed that such tender if made would have been rejected.

The Honorable G. Badger Baker, Judge of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, before whom the cause then came on exceptions to the Special Referee's report, disagreed with the [239 S.C. 113] conclusion therein reached, held that the evidence was insufficient to establish fraud or undue influence on the part of S. J. Wall, and dismissed the claim of the intervening defendant.

The issues under the intervention being equitable, the lower court's factual findings are subject to review on appeal and may be reversed if in our opinion they are contrary to the preponderance of the evidence, Simonds v. Simonds, 232 S.C. 185, 101 S.E.2d 494. The burden of convincing

Page 429

the appellate court of such error is of course upon the appellant. Inabinet v. Inabinet, 236 S.C. 52, 113 S.E.2d 66. In approaching consideration of these findings, we bear in mind that fraud is never presumed, Smith v. Traxler, 228 S.C. 418, 90 S.E.2d 482; and that the intervening defendant, having asserted fraud as the ground for the relief sought, assumed the heavy burden of proving it by clear, cogent and convincing evidence. Singleton v. Mullins Lumber Co., 234 S.C. 330, 108 S.E.2d 414; Gary v. Jordan, 236 S.C. 144, 113 S.E.2d 730.

W. Furman Wall, who lived in Spartanburg, had failed in business in 1927, and from then until his death in 1956 was in dire financial straits. After the loss of his business he had lost his home; he was never able thereafter to make a success in business; he took small...

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6 practice notes
  • Floyd v. Floyd, No. 3997.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 13, 2005
    ...upon the credibility of the out-of-court asserted.' Our Court has recognized this sound and very basic proposition in Watson v. Wall, 239 S.C. 109, 121 S.E.2d 427 (1961). Also see 5 Wigmore on Evidence s 1361 (3rd `If, then, an utterance can be used as circumstantial evidence, i.e. without ......
  • South v. Sherwood Chevrolet, Inc., No. 21643
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 17, 1982
    ...is never presumed, and the plaintiff assumes the heavy burden of proving it by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. Watson v. Wall, 239 S.C. 109, 121 S.E.2d 427 (1961). Because respondent did not offer clear, cogent and convincing evidence that he had a right to rely upon the alleged rep......
  • Dibble v. Dibble, No. 18533
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 14, 1966
    ...S.C. 174, 94 S.E.2d 879; Simonds v. Simonds, 232 S.C. 185, 101 S.E.2d 494; Chapman v. Scott, 234 S.C. 469, 109 S.E.2d 1; Watson v. Wall, 239 S.C. 109, 121 S.E.2d As pointed out in the circuit court decree family settlements are favored by the courts and have generally been upheld against ar......
  • Dunn v. Miller, No. 18508
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 27, 1966
    ...Court of error in the finding of a Circuit Judge is upon the appellants. Boatwright v. Crosby, 83 S.C. 190, 65 S.E. 174; Watson v. Wall, 239 S.C. 109, 121 S.E.2d 427. The appellants have not met that It does not appear that a conveyance of the property in question was ever authorized by the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Floyd v. Floyd, No. 3997.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 13, 2005
    ...upon the credibility of the out-of-court asserted.' Our Court has recognized this sound and very basic proposition in Watson v. Wall, 239 S.C. 109, 121 S.E.2d 427 (1961). Also see 5 Wigmore on Evidence s 1361 (3rd `If, then, an utterance can be used as circumstantial evidence, i.e. without ......
  • South v. Sherwood Chevrolet, Inc., No. 21643
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 17, 1982
    ...is never presumed, and the plaintiff assumes the heavy burden of proving it by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. Watson v. Wall, 239 S.C. 109, 121 S.E.2d 427 (1961). Because respondent did not offer clear, cogent and convincing evidence that he had a right to rely upon the alleged rep......
  • Dibble v. Dibble, No. 18533
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 14, 1966
    ...S.C. 174, 94 S.E.2d 879; Simonds v. Simonds, 232 S.C. 185, 101 S.E.2d 494; Chapman v. Scott, 234 S.C. 469, 109 S.E.2d 1; Watson v. Wall, 239 S.C. 109, 121 S.E.2d As pointed out in the circuit court decree family settlements are favored by the courts and have generally been upheld against ar......
  • Dunn v. Miller, No. 18508
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 27, 1966
    ...Court of error in the finding of a Circuit Judge is upon the appellants. Boatwright v. Crosby, 83 S.C. 190, 65 S.E. 174; Watson v. Wall, 239 S.C. 109, 121 S.E.2d 427. The appellants have not met that It does not appear that a conveyance of the property in question was ever authorized by the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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