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HOLGATE V. EATON, 116 U. S. 33 (1885)

U.S. Supreme Court

Holgate v. Eaton, 116 U.S. 33 (1885)

Holgate v. Eaton

Argued November 24-25, 1885

Decided December 14, 1885

116 U.S. 33


A married woman who, on being informed of a contract made by her husband for the sale of an equitable interest in real estate held by her in her own right, repudiates it, and who, for more than two years, refuses to perform it whenever thereto requested, during which time the property depreciates greatly in value, cannot, after the expiration of that time, enforce in equity the specific performance of the contract by the other party.

When the husband of a married woman obtains a decree of foreclosure of a mortgage hell by him as her trustee, and at the sale purchases the property and takes a deed in his own name, she retains an equitable interest therein, as against a purchaser from the husband with actual notice.

A loaned B a sum of money on a conveyance of a tract of land, the equitable interest in which belonged, as A knew at the time, to B's wife. He further agreed with B to acquire an outstanding tax title of the property, and subsequently complied with that agreement. Simultaneously by a separate instrument, they agreed that A, on payment of a further sum, might at his election acquire the whole title of B and wife, to be conveyed by warranty deed executed by both; or, if A so elected, B should repay the sum loaned and the amount paid for the tax title,

Page 116 U. S. 34

holding the premises as security until such payments, and then reconveying. B's wife, though often requested, refused to comply with the agreement. After the lapse of more than two years, the property meanwhile having greatly depreciated, B's wife, by next friend, filed a bill in equity against A to compel specific performance. A filed a cross-bill against B and wife in that suit to recover the sum loaned and the sum paid for the tax title. The wife dying, the suit was revived and prosecuted by her administrator, and her heirs also joined as complainants. Held (1) that the delay in commencing proceedings was inexcusable, especially as a material change took place meanwhile in the subject matter of the contract; (2) that the estate of the wife was not charged with the payment of the debt; (3) that without further facts not before it this Court could not say what effect the outstanding tax title in the hands of A had upon the wife's estate; (4) that the title or interest of B in the land was charged with payment of the sum loaned and of the sum paid for the tax title; (5) that the offers in the cross-bill entitled the heirs to conveyances of B's interest and of the tax title on payment of both sums with interest, if they desired it; (6) that, they declining, A was entitled to a personal decree against B, and the cross-bill could be dismissed as to the heirs, without prejudice to A.

In equity. The facts which make the case are stated in the opinion of the court.

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