Willis v. Hillsborough County

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Citation117 Fla. 1,157 So. 29
PartiesWILLIS et al. v. HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY et al.
Decision Date15 October 1934

Bill by Hillsborough County, a political subdivision of the State of Florida, and others, against Henry Y. Willis and others. From an order overruling a motion to dismiss the bill, defendants appeal.

Reversed with directions to dismiss the bill. Appeal from Circuit Court, Hillsborough County; L. L. Parks, judge.


T Wade Harrison, of Tampa, and J. Asakiah Williams, of Sulphur Springs, for appellants.

John B. Sutton and Henry C. Tillman, both of Tampa for appellees.


ELLIS Justice.

The county of Hillsborough on the 9th day of December, 1932, was the owner of two small lots of land lying in the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of section 7 in township 32 south, range 19 east. A complete description of the property is unnecessary. It is sufficient to say that they were separated by the right of way of the Tampa Southern Railroad. For convenience the small triangular tract lying north of the railroad will be referred to as tract No. 1, while the small tract in form of a rhomboid lying south of the railroad will be referred to as tract No. 2.

The county commissioners of Hillsborough county, deeming it for the best interest of the county that each piece of property should be sold, adopted a resolution calling for bids for the purchase of the property, the same to be sold to the 'highest and best bidder for cash.' The sale of the lots was to be made 'subject to the right of the owners of the buildings located thereon to remove the same within sixty days from the date of the sale of said property.' The notice was published for two weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county. The resolution referred to the statute under which the county commissioners were exerting the power to sell the land. The law authorizing the same is contained in chapter 12848, Special Acts of 1927, Laws of Florida.

Section 1 of the act authorizes the board of county commissioners of the county to sell and convey any property real or personal belonging to the county whenever the board of commissioners shall determine that it is for the best interest of the county to do so. The section provides, however, that no sale of any real property should be made unless notice thereof should be advertised once a week for at least two weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county calling for bids for the purchase of the real estate so advertised to be sold.

The section directs the commissioners to accept the bid of the highest bidder in each case complying with the terms and conditions set forth in the notice unless the commissioners should reject all bids.

Section 2 of the act empowers the commissioners to sell any such property for such price and upon such terms and conditions as the commissioners should deem proper. The terms and conditions, however, were required to be stated in the notice of the proposition to sell. The section empowered the commissioners to convey the title and execute proper conveyances therefor to the purchaser of the property.

Henry Y. Willis at the proper time stated in the notice submitted his bid of $400 cash for tract No. 1. Lewis Hall submitted his bid of $250 for tract No. 2. These bids were on December 30, 1932, separately accepted by the board of county commissioners and the money received directed to be covered into the general fund of the county, and the chairman of the board and the clerk were directed to execute to the purchasers deeds of conveyance to the lands purchased by them respectively.

The purchase money was paid and the deeds of conveyance executed. The bids for the property by the two men, each bidding upon a separate and distinct parcel, were accepted by a resolution in each instance and the transaction directed to be completed by the execution of a deed of conveyance to the purchaser.

The deeds were duly recorded. Thereupon, nearly two months later, on February 20, 1933, the county of Hillsborough and members of the board of county commissioners exhibited their bill in the circuit court for Hillsborough county against Henry Willis and his wife and Lewis Hall and his wife for a reconveyance of the property purchased by them respectively. There was a prayer that if the court should find that either of the defendants were entitled to retain the property purchased by him the complainants should have the relief prayed as against the other.

The basis for the relief prayed for is set forth in paragraphs numbered seventh, eighth, and ninth of the bill of complaint, the substance of the allegations being that subsequently to the sale the county commissioners made an investigation as to the value of the real estate sold and ascertained that the property sold to each defendant was sold for an inadequate amount; that when the resolution to sell the property was adopted the defendants each represented to the board of commissioners that the improvements located upon the property purchased were placed thereon by individuals and owned by them and had not been placed thereon by the board of commissioners so that the resolution provided that the owners of the buildings should have the right to 'remove the same within sixty days from the date of the sale'; that the board of commissioners at the time of the adoption of the resolution and the acceptance of the bids for the purchase of the property relied upon such representations and that the individuals who placed the improvements upon the property had a right to remove the same.

It was also alleged that the county had caused the improvements to be placed on the property which consisted of certain buildings 'which were from time to time and for a great number of years used by the employees of the County of Hillsborough acting as bridge-tender or otherwise' ; that the county did have an interest in the buildings which rendered the value of the property much greater than the price obtained therefor. It was alleged that the county owned the buildings, wells, and other improvements and that the improvements were of a value exceeding $1,500.

The defendants severally moved the court to dismiss the bill of complaint. The grounds were the same in each motion. It was urged that the bill was without equity; that it failed to allege that the defendants knew that the alleged representations were false or that they were made for the purpose of deception; that inadequacy of price constitutes no fraud; that whatever such representations were concerning the improvements which had been placed on the property the facts were as much within the knowledge of the complainant as in the knowledge of the defendants; that such representations were concerning matters the truthfulness or falsity of which the complainants had an equal or better opportunity to know than the defendants; and that it was the duty of the complainants to ascertain the true state of facts. Other grounds for the motion were urged but there was no ground specifically directed to the multifarious character of the bill.

The motion was overruled, but complainants were permitted to amend the bill. The amendments as made in paragraphs which were numbered 10 and 11 alleged that the county had made the improvements upon the land which on tract numbered 1 amounted to $1,000 and on tract numbered 2 to $500 were owned by the county which facts were known by the defendants, respectively, and that the sum for which each tract was sold was an inadequate price for the property and could have been sold for a greater price for each but for the representations made by the defendants respectively.

Motions to dismiss the bill as amended attacked it for multifariousness and lack of equity by Hall and upon the same grounds and others by Willis. The motions to dismiss were overruled, and from that order the defendants appealed.

The motions should have been granted, not because the bill was multifarious, but for lack of equity to sustain a rescission of the conveyances.

The bill was multifarious because there were not only two causes of action alleged, but the parties defendant were not interested in the same rights. The bill undertook to state separate, distinct, and independent...

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4 cases
  • Wicker v. Board of Public Instruction of Dade County
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 8 de janeiro de 1958
    ......        We think our decision in Willis v. Hillsborough County, 117 Fla. 1, 157 So. 29, is ample authority for reversal of the decree. Actually the present case is a stronger one for ......
  • American Federation of Labor v. Watson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 22 de julho de 1947
    ......Florida Supreme CourtJuly 22, 1947 . Appeal from Circuit. Court, Hillsborough County; L. L. Parks, judge. . . Raymond Sheldon, of. Tampa, Joseph A. Padway and Herbert ...Co. v. Tharpe, 118 Fla. 832, 160 So. 199; Williams v. Ricou, 143 Fla. 360, 196 So. 667; Willis v. Hillsborough County, 117 Fla. 1, 157 So. 29. The. Declaratory Judgment Act, Chapter 21820, ......
  • Jabour v. Calleja, 98-1866.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 21 de abril de 1999
    ......See Willis v. Hillsborough County, 117 Fla. 1, 157 So. 29 (1934).         The Callejas allege that ......
  • Central Public Service Corporation v. Pittman
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 19 de outubro de 1934
    ...... Error. to Circuit Court, Jackson County; Amos Lewis, Judge. . . Suit at. Law by Hermia Pittman and another, as joint tenants ......

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