Watts v. Waddle
APPEAL from the circuit court of the United States for the district of Ohio.
In the circuit court of Ohio, John Watts, a citizen of the state of Kentucky, filed a bill in chancery against John Waddle and William Lamb, the appellees, to obtain a perpetual injunction to stay proceedings by John Waddle on a judgment obtained in the circuit court against him, for damages for the non-performance of a contract made by him with John Lamb in November 1815, which contract had been assigned by him to John Waddle; and also to compel Waddleor Lamb to a specific execution of the contract. The contract was for the sale of certain lots of ground in the town of Chillicothe to William Lamb, for which John Watts agreed to give a good and sufficient general warranty conveyance, by the 1st day of February 1816, or as soon as a final decree should be rendered in the circuit court of the United States, in a suit instituted to compel Nathaniel Massie and others, to make a conveyance to the complainant of the legal title to the said lots, the elder equitable title thereto being in the complainant. William Lamb, or his assignee John Waddle, was in possession of the premises at the time of the contract, and continued to hold the same until and after the judgment for the damages.
Numerous and continuing obstacles, arising, as was alleged, from other causes than the fault or laches of John Watts, interposed and prevented the conveyance of the premises by a sufficient legal title until 1826.
In 1824 William Lamb assigned the contract between him and John Watts to John Waddle, who thereupon instituted the suit against John Watts, he having been found in Ohio; and obtained a judgment for damages for the non-performance thereof, amounting to seven thousand seven hundred and forty-five dollars and fifty cents.
In 1826 John Watts tendered to John Waddle, as the assignee of John Lamb, a deed of conveyance of the lots, in conformity, as was alleged, with the contract of 1815, which was refused by him.
The circuit court of Ohio dismissed the bill of the complainants; and the executors and legal representatives of John Watts thereupon prosecuted this appeal.
The facts of the case are stated more particularly in the opinion of the court.
For the appellants, Mr Creighton and Mr Clay contended, that the decree of the circuit court ought to be reversed on the grounds:
1. That the said circuit court ought to have decreed a specific execution of the contract between Watts and Lamb; Watts having throughout manifested a bona fide intention to fulfil his covenant, and having, for that purpose, done all that was incumbent upon him to possess himself of the legal title, which he tendered, as soon as he acquired it, to Waddle; and neither Lamb or Waddle, who have constantly remained in quiet possession of the property, having ever demanded a deed, or sustained any injury in consequencee of not receiving one.
2. But if the court below ought to have refused to compel Waddle now to receive a title from Watts, it ought to have made Lamb and Waddle liable for the rents and profits of the estate, from the date of Watts's covenant to the termination of the suit; inasmuch as they had recovered a judgment for principal and interest of the purchase money, and had peaceably enjoyed the possession and reaped the fruits of the property, up to this time. And this allowance, for rents and profits, ought to have been applied by the court in abatement of the amount of the judgment at law.
They cited 5 Peters, 264. 2 Peters's Condensed Reports, 247. 1 Wheat. 179, 196. 6 Wheat. 528. 6 Cranch, 148.
Mr Leonard, for the appellees, argued:
1. That according to the contract, the deed was to have been delivered in 1818, when the appellant obtained a final decree in the circuit court in the suit against Massie and others; and not being at that time able to make a legal and sufficient title, the complainant could not, in 1826 or afterwards, call on the appellees to accept of the title. The right of the appellees to damages for the breach of the contract of 1815, could not be impaired by the subsequent ability of the appellant, if it existed, to make the title. Cited, Sug. on Vendors, 249. 1 Harrison's Chancery, tit. Decree, 424, 425, 426. 1 Mad. Chan. 430.
2. The rents and profits could not be set off in the action for damages; nor should this court now give the appellant the benefit of the claim to them, against the judgment of the circuit court. Cited, Coop. Equity, 13, 14, 333. 2 Atk. 3, 141, 325. 12 Ves. 48. 17 Ves. 114, 118. 2 Ves. Sen. 225. 2 Peters, 612. 1 Wheat. 179. 7 Wheat. 535.
Mr Justice M'LEAN delivered the opinion of the Court.