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Kapiolani Estate, Ltd. v. Atcherley, 238 U.S. 119 (1915)

Kapiolani Estate, Limited v. Atcherley

No. 174

Argued April 30, 1915

Decided June 14, 1915

238 U.S. 119


A decree was made in 1855, by the Hawaiian court having jurisdiction, to the effect that one who was guardian of a minor had wrongfully obtained from the Land Commission registration in his own name of property belonging to the minor, and that he, and his heirs claiming the property after his decease, held the property as trustee for the ward, and should convey the same to him; the decree was acquiesced insofar as possession was concerned, but no deed was ever executed, and subsequently those holding under the heirs of the guardian having commenced an ejectment suit relying on the legal title, the grantee of the ward brought this suit to enjoin prosecution of the ejectment suit; meanwhile, in a suit between a grantee of the ward and others claiming under the heirs of the guardian, it was held that a title registered by the Land Commission could not be attacked; the record in that suit, however, did not disclose the relations of the guardian and the ward; this Court having affirmed that judgment, the Hawaiian courts in this case, while admitting that they had fallen into error in the former decision by reason of not giving full effect to the guardianship relations, followed it because it had been affirmed by this Court. Held that:

In Lewers & Cooke v. Atcherle, 222 U. S. 285, the suggestion that the relation of guardian and ward existed had no substantial foundation on the record, and this Court followed the decision of the local court, the relationship of guardian and ward having now been cleared up and the record in this case showing that it did exist, the courts of Hawaii should have given full effect to that fact, notwithstanding the affirmance by this Court of the prior and contrary decision of the Hawaiian court when it did not appear, and so the judgment is reversed and the case sent back to the Hawaiian court.

Under the law of the Hawaiian Islands as far back as 1846, a guardian could not, through the instrumentality of an award of the Land Commission, obtain a title to the property of his ward which

Page 238 U. S. 120

would be so immune from subsequent attack that the wrong would be without redress.

There is nothing to hinder a court from changing its action on a different view of law after an interlocutory decree or to hinder a party to the action from availing itself of such change unless the decision has the finality of res judicata.

A corporation, grantee of a portion of the grantor's property, is not a privy to a grantee of another portion, and a judgment against the latter in a suit in which the corporation was not a party, although some of its officers as individuals had notice thereof and took some part in the defense, is not res judicata if the acts of such officers were, as in this case, merely individuals, and not authorized by the corporation.

In order to make a judgment against the grantor available to the grantee of the title, his covenantor must receive notice of the suit and have an opportunity to defend.

21 Haw. 441 reversed.

The facts, which involve the title to land in Hawaii, are stated in the opinion.

Page 238 U. S. 124

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