GRISWOLD 'V. BRAGG
(Cwcuit Court, D. Connecticut. :May 27,1880.)
CoNSTl'I'UTIOIUL LAW-OBLIGATION OF CONTRA.0T8-EJECTlllliNT-" BETTERMENT
Rev. St. Conn. p. 862, S 17, providing judgmeut shall not be rendered against a defendant in ejectment until the court shall have ascertained the presenl. value of improvements made in good faith,' and the amount reasonably due tor use and occupation, and until plainti:!! shall haVepa,i,d defend,ant any exces,s f the, former sum over the latter, does not impa4' the e:!!ect of the conveyances under whioh plaintUf holds, so as to violate Canst. U. S. art.t, § 10, forbiddinK the states to pau laws impairing the obligation of contracts. '
iii. SA.MJl:-:DUE 8.
The statl1teis not in contravention of the inhibition of the constitution of Connecticut against depriving a pe1'8on of his property without due course of law.
BY JURy-AsOERTAINING VALUIii OF IHPROVIIi)fENTS.
PROOESS OF LAw.
The fact that the value of'the improvements, and of the use 'and oceupation j are to be determined by the court upon equitable principles, does not deprive the plaintiff of a right to trial by jUry, in contravention of the inhibition in the state consti. tution., '
, In Equity. Bill supplementary to an action in ejectment, for the the value of betterments and improvements. On purpose demurrer"tdbill. W. F. 'Wilcox and Richard D. Hubbard, for plaintiff. Simeon E.'Baldwin, for defendants. SHIPMAN,,J". At the September term, ,1879, of this court,the jury rendered Ii verdict, in an action of ejectment, in favor of the present defendants against the present plaintiff, that they recover the seisin and possession of an undivided fourth part of a' tract of land in the town of Chester. Upon motion Of the defendant in the ejectment suit ,judgment and were stayed until further order. He thereupon filed a supplemental bill on the !'lquity side of the court. ' This bill; after setting out the shlte statute hereinafter recited,commonly called the" Betterment AL1," 'alleges, in substance, that the plaintiff and those under whom he claims have held 'said lartdby a series of connected' conveyances since 1846, which deeds purported to convey; and were intended and belitved to coilvey, ,an absolute fee-simple, and that the plaintiff and his grantors have had uninterrupted possession of said under a like belief that they had absolute estate; and that during this time, an'd tefore the commencement of the ejectment suit, improvements of the val,ue of$10,000 ,been made on said land, by said reputed owners, iD:g6'od faith, and'lo the likebeIief; and prays that the present value ofsaid improvements; ,and the excess of the value thereof over the to the defendantS fOr the use and occupation of said prem8IDount ises, maybe ascertained"to the end that the equitable relief provided by said statllte may be granted. Tobill the defendants have demurred. Their title became, vested in them in 1878. The statute (Revision !1815; p. 362, §,I7) provides oe,' defendant, in anactlonot 1VM or whose grantors or ancestors have, in good faith, belin-
ing that he or they, a8 the case may be, had an absolute title to the land in question, made improvemetlts thereon, before the commencement of the action, until the court shall have ascertained the present value thereof, and the amount reasonably due to the plaintiff from the defendant for the use and occupation of the premises; and, if sllch valLIe of such improvements exceeds such amount due for use anll occupation, final jullgment shall not be rendered until the plaintiff ha.s paid said balance to the defendant; but, if the pllloiptiff shall elect to have' the' title confirmed in the defendant, and shClll. UPPl1 .the rendition of thll v.erdict, file notice o( such election with the clerk of the,court, the court shallascf'rt.ain what sum ought, in equity, to be paid to tpeJl'aintiffby the defendant, or other parties in interest; and, on payment thereof, may confirm the title to said land in the parties paying it." The original statutew&s passed June 26, 1848, (Laws Conn. 1848, p. 48.) It plainly appears from the aetas passed, and as reproduced in*eRevisions of 184:9 (section 223) and 1866, (section 281,) that the proceeding in the state cO).1rt, upon the motion of the defendant, after the\ierdict, is a proceeding in equity. . The question of law which is raised by the demurrer is in regard to the validity, ofthis s,tatu,te., It is not denied that the statutes of the sev6rwl in regard to realty, ,except when, the constitution, trl;laties, or statutes of the United States ,otherwise require or provide, which are in conformity with thecQnstitu,tions of the respective states, are rules of property, and rules of decision in the c<;>,u,rts of the United ,States, (Bank v. Dudl('y's u,ssee, 2 Pet. 492;) and that, jf a state legislature has created a rmht and established a remedy in. chan,cery to enforce such right, such may be pursued in the feder!1lcourts, if it is not inconsistent (Ol<!rk v. Smith;13 Pet. 195; Ex parte Biddle, 2 4'12;) and that an inability of the federal courts to proceed in the e;lwt mode provided by a state statutllneed not prevent a party from of the relief be granted, .If the of PF9cecd,ing hJ: courts of chancery are adapted to carry into ,effect the statDudley's supra.) This is true, although the Z;ight.}Vhichbas been established by local statute is anew right, and one previou,s]y unknown 1io. 8,. court of chancery in this country or in England. Inrman v. McLean, !>68; Bayerque v. Cohen, 1 McAB. 11.3., ,'fhe in equ\ty is, in general, except where otherwise directed· by -statute. or by· the Jules of the supreme oourt,. regulated by the English chancery practice as it existed in 1842, before the adoption of the "1l6wrules." EquityRule 90; Badger v. Badger, 1 Cliff. 237; Goodyear v. Rubber Co., 2 Cliff. 351. The. statute practically impresses upon the land of a successful plaintiff.in ejectment a lien for the excess, abovll the amount due for use and o<jcupation, of the vresentvalue of the improvements which have been place}lon the land, before the commencement of the action, by a defend· Or his ancestors ,or in good faith, and in the belief that he or they had an to the land in question, and forbids occupancy by the plaintitfuntilthe lien is paid. There is a natural equity "'hich rebels at that a bona fide and reputed owner of Iwwly-settled where unimproved land is of sm!1l1 v!1lue,
GRISWOLD V. BRAGG.
or where skill in conveyancing has not been attained, orwbere surveys have been uncertain or inaccurate, should lose the benefit of the labor and money which he had expended in the erroneous belief that his title was absolute and perfect. While it is true that impJ;ovements and permanent buildings upon land belong to the owner, yet, ina comparatively newly-organized state, where titles are necessarily more uncertain than they are in England, there is an instinctive conviction that justice rtilquires that the possessor under a defective title should have recompenSe for the improvements which have been made in good Jitith upon the land of another. The maxim, often repeated in the decisions upon this subject, nemo debet locupletari ex alterius incommodo, tersely expresses the antagonism against the enrichment of one Qut of the honest mistake, 'and to the'rpin, of another. His obvious that this statutory equity is not without occasional hardships.. The true owner may be'forced to sell his land against his will, and may sometimes be placed too much in the ,power of <lapital, but a carefully regulated and guarded statute should " ordinarlly'be the meaFlS of?oing exact justice to the owner. ,It is w.ellknown that the English law made no provisiOn for reimburseil1-entofexpenditnres of'thiskind, as against the owrier of the legil1 title, exce'pt by allowing the bO,na.jideoccnpant to recoup the value of.his improver4ents,when he is a defendant in n bill inequity'praying for ail aC(JOunt of rents and profits. The established theory was that a of equity should not go any further, and "grant active'relief in favor "f such a bonafide possessor making permanent meliorations and improvements; bj Sllstairiipg a bill, brought by him therefor, against thetrtie owner, after he has recovered the premises at law.," Bright v. Boyd, 1 Story; 478, 495. Such was the opinion of Chancellor WALWORTH in Ritchie, 6 Paige, 390, and such may be taken to be thestli.te of law in this countr)', in 1841, apart from locnlstatutes, and oftha EngHsh law then and noW: In 1841 Judge STORY decided, in Bright v'. Boyd, in favor of the power of courts of equity tb 'grant affirmnth'e relief,at, the suit of a bon(1, fide poSsessor, against the true owner; and"iri 18431'estated his opinion; after an additional hearing of the same case. 2 Story, 605. The learned judge thus states his view of the law: "I Wish; In 'coming to thiscon,clusion, to be distinctly understood as lng and maiIitaining the broad doctrine,.as a doctrine of eq uity, that, so :flar as an Innocent purchaser for a valuable cOllsideration, without notice oflmy infirmity iil 'bls title, has, by his improvements and meliorations, added to the permanent value of tht' estate, he is entitled to a full remuneration; alll1 that such increase of value is a lien and charge on the estate, which theabsolute owner is bound to discharge. before he is to be restored to his original rights in the land. This is the clear result of the Roman la w; and it bas the most persuasive equity, and; 1 may add, common sense and common jUlftice, for its foundation." This opinion of Judge STORY, though often favorably quoted, cannot be considered as the established law of this country, apart from the stat:. ute, because it has rarely had occasion to be reviewed, inasrnuch as the "Betterment Acts" have become the predominant statutory system of the country. The supreme courts of Missouri, Maryland and Oregon"""
have no. .,(m, . ; Valle'8:H',e:tr8v. Flenwng'8 E;W!rp, (1859,) 29 Mo.152i anum ,}iati A88'n: v. 39 ¥cl.'.',2$1 i eatcher v·. l)rigg8, (1876,) 6 0 31 ' . '" ",,1:, . '" th,at ?.f JIldge tbatan 18 .upon the land for t1:l.e value of the Improvements whicbt4e bona 09pllpant hI¥!, inrwcelltly IRade., . Furthermore, the has either ,possession of the li:md by pay,or to, in liell'of the land, the, sum which the court shall to due him. The owner's title is not forced away frQpl; J,lim, bllt the lien' of the occupant is preserved. There:\\lPQe1ection on thepartofthe occupan,t to keep the land, and thus coplpelthe Qwner.tQ aband9u pis title., Neither is any judgment ren4ered for the vaIue of the to be enTheile, two provisionsm. the statutes of forced by Ohi9:and upon the 'ground that they iln rights vate, property secured by of tpc respective states. McColl Y. Gra'f/,qy, 30hio,St. ,v. Iowa, 261. Itmaybere1parked that the ;stat,yie of 1848 provided, 'that court order and decree SO found dueta be Thisclll:lwe is ,not' found in the and amount of t,he ,lien cannot, appa:t:entJy, be collected, by levy, upon the defendan,t'sproperty. .' ".' , statute is said to be unconstitutional, in, that it impairS the effect ,of in violation of the,provision ?fthe constitution' oqpe United. Sta,wa., (article 1, § 10,) which prohibits a, st/1te from passing a law the oqligation of c(111tracts; and that,as regards ing conveyancespr it is contrary to the,state because it of his property without due course of law, and h,im, his righ.t of tria1,by jury. I do not think that it is neeintp c,ritical exaO)ipation .,of thes,ecpnstitutionalprovisic)Ds. '.' ,',rhe spggesti()ns are founded a'hargh view of ,o(the sl:lt.U,tf1i .It irnpairtheolJligation o(any conthe tract grantor, or 'het,,:"een; s.Me and the Witp.; ino wit.h, anq is abndgmi'lPt,of, the rlghtJo, the ppsse&91onand benefi<llal enas that, right, existed at COmtnoD law,and, eta tha.t eX,tent;Hnpairs the interest which owners formerly-had in lands. It an, unjust' Or 'unreasonable limitation of the or' possessiori;but, 8n the provisions :nre r.eM,,', Wlwde! ,,2, Ua,ll., 105.,;," '!'Of.'" On v. ,Lamphire, ,3 Tis,', v. Whll.tney, 13 Wall. Welch v.,Wadsworth, 30 Conll. 149. ,U P()!l, tu pas not, appar,ibis of decisions elsethat Grt:t:n v. lJi(1dle, 8 Wheat. iofJ<:eIlt,uc;ky was of th,e anq Tobie.
, ". ·
?f. the, ponnecticut
NATIONAL WATER-WORKS 00. fl. SCHOOL-DISTRICT No.7.
tucky. It mllY jpferred, from' the express the court, WASHINGTON" that it dieTikeu 'the statute as givell by Judges ilTespective of the contract, and was not satisfied witll ftsprovisions. These dicta may properly be read in the light of the decision in Bank v. Dudley's Lessee, Pet. 492,irl which no opinion was expressed upon the general principles of the betterinentact of Ohio., 'The constitutionIItates whose ality t with relation to t,he' constitutions' oJ the courts'gave the decisions, or the justice of statutesllimilarin substance orin principle to the Connecticut statute,has been, learnedly discussed in the following,bmong other, cases:' Withington v. Corey, and 2 N. H. 115; Whitney v. Richardson, 31 Vt. 300; Armstrong v. Jat'kson; 1 Blackf'. 874; JicCoyv. Grandy, 3 Ohio St; 463jRQllBv. Irving, 14 Ill. 171; Ohild. v. Shower. 18 Iowa, 261. The coostitutio,oality of the Tennessee statute was condemned in Nelson v. Allen, 1'Yerg. 376. Judg&. CATRON :says that the question of constitutionality did no! properly arise in'thatcase, and expresses no opinion upou 'the point. Thedemurrer is, overruled.
(CircuitCIrnrt,W.D. Missouri. W.,D. May, 1882.)
1. SCHtloI,' BtJjp>INGS-CIilT
Co'NTRACT. . " ·· Act Mo. 1571; provides that 4'linyclty, town, or village, the plat ofwblch has been 1l1ed,in the recorder's office, of tlle county hl ,whluh the BllIIle Is situate, I11l1y, together wit1;l, the territory which is oflllay be attacbedtheteto' be organized in a single scb'ool-district, and when sO organized' shall be a biidY10l ltic." Held that, when schools formerly under control of a city are organize under this law, the Property, in tbe schqol buildingll dqes not ce",e to be in the city, and hence a wor1l:s company, which' contracts to furnish watelo free ,of charge ,for C4all publio buildinjtsand omces of thecll:iy. "Is bound to supply the espedaUy the contract was befQre scpOOls were !lrganized. '
The rule that a court, in constrUing a doubtful provision of a eontl'llQ\, wtnfol· low tl:llllnwrprctation it by th\l paTties, 110es not apply toCOIltraet. It. lIlunicipal corp<irationill affectillg the pUblic Interest. '
At'ta.w. Action by the National WiJ.ter-WorkeCompany against Schpol-District No.7 of Kansas City, to recover cOfnpensation for water used in the school buildings.' On motion to set aside a nonsuit. :MOo tion denied. ', .
!Thecohtroversy in this case between' the water-works tbe school board of Kansas City has its origin in the strqctionof. ordinanceurider which the 'water-works of the city wete requiring the. ascertainifient of the object and policy b\l:ilt j ' of "tpat' portion of' the school laws Nissouri under which: public sqhoQ'1l in ,cities, towns,' and "illages or'gapized. ,'It appears thlltirt 1873' the City of Kansas entered into a col:itract'with the National Water-'