Miles v. Caldwell

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

69 U.S. 35

Miles  v.  Caldwell

MILES brought ejectment against Caldwell, in the Circuit Court of Missouri; the action being brought, not in the fictitious form, still sometimes used in the United States, but in the form now more frequent with us, in which the parties actually suing appear in their proper names, as Thomas Miles against William Caldwell, and where the land claimed is described as by metes or bounds, or by both; the action being entitled, in Missouri, 'trespass in ejectment.' Both parties in the present suit claimed under one Ely, who, in 1837, and prior to that time, was owner of the land; Caldwell claiming under a mortgage made by Ely to Gallagher in that year; and a subsequent release by Ely; [1] Miles, under a mortgage of 1838, by Ely to Carswell and McClellan, and a foreclosure and sale founded on it. The defendant, Caldwell, in that ejectment, contended that his own title, under the mortgage to Gallagher, was good; and that the title of Miles, under the mortgage to Carswell and McClellan, was bad, as having been made in fraud of creditors. Miles, the plaintiff, on the other hand, contended that the mortgage to Gallagher had been satisfied; and that his own mortgage was not fraudulent, but given for a valid debt. Both these points-that is to say, the point whether Gallagher's mortgage had or had not been paid, and whether that of Carswell and McClellan was fraudulent or was good-were submitted to the jury, who, on instructions from the court, passed upon them, finding a verdict for the plaintiff, Miles. Indeed, as to the question of fraud, there was an express agreement, now before this court, that the mortgage to Carswell and McClellan was, in the action of ejectment, impeached for fraud; and the record of that suit also established the fact that the question, whether the mortgage to Gallagher had been paid off in full, was submitted to them. But neither of these points were points put in issue by the pleadings themselves; nor, indeed, was it practicable so to put them in issue in the action,-that of ejectment.

In this state of the facts, Caldwell, wishing, as he represented, to have his title 'quieted,' filed his bill on the equity side of the court, where the judgment at law had been obtained, to enjoin execution on the judgment, and to prevent Miles's taking possession of the land.

The grounds of the complainant's application were these:

1. That his title was good and valid, founded on the senior mortgage; and, being the true legal title, should prevail.

2. That the mortgage to Carswell and McClellan was fraudulent, because made for the purpose of hindering and delaying creditors; and that a court of equity should decree it to be void, and prevent its being used to the injury of complainant.

3. That he had made valuable improvements, in good faith, on the land, supposing it to be his own, for which he was entitled to compensation before it was taken from him.

It is necessary here to say, that in Missouri one of the Revised Statutes enacts, that in ejectment, as in other actions authorized by it, a judgment, except one of nonsuit, 'shall be a bar to any other action between the same parties, or those claiming under them, as to the same subject-matter.'The court below granted the injunction, and an appeal came here.

Mr. Green, in support of the decree: Caldwell, being in possession, under a senior mortgage, had a right to stay. Even if the judgment on the note did not foreclose the mortgage, he had a release from Ely which gave him the equity of redemption. Admitting that the question of the payment of Gallagher's mortgage, and the good faith of that of Carswell and McClellan were in issue on the trial at law, what is there to prevent their being passed on here? The action was ejectment; a proceeding in which it is matter of common knowledge that one judgment never binds. Moreover, it is a rule that nothing will be held as concluded by the verdict which is not put in issue by the pleadings. Outram v. Morewood, [2] confines the conclusiveness to questions expressly so put.

[On the third ground assigned for relief-valuable improvements put on the land-Mr. Green made no remarks.]

Mr. Gantt, contra.

Mr. Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  The mortgage to Gallagher was never foreclosed. The mortgagee had obtained a judgment against Ely on a note which the mortgage was given to secure, and under an execution issued on that judgment the land was sold, and by several mesne conveyances the complainant became invested with such title or claim as that sale could confer. Having some doubts of the validity, under the laws of Missouri, of this title, Caldwell procured from Ely, the mortgagor, the release above mentioned.

^2  3 East, 346.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).