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CROWE v. TRICKEY

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


January 21, 1907

CROWE
v.
TRICKEY

APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF ARIZONA

Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, White, Peckham, McKenna, Holmes, Day

Author: Fuller

[ 204 U.S. Page 234]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

The Supreme Court of the Territory was called upon to make a statement of the facts of the case in the nature of a special verdict, and also the rulings of the court in the admission or rejection of evidence when excepted to. Our

[ 204 U.S. Page 235]

     jurisdiction is limited to the consideration of such exceptions and to determining whether the findings of fact support the judgment. Harrison v. Perea, 168 U.S. 311; Young v. Amy, 171 U.S. 179.

The statement of facts required by the statute should present clearly and precisely the ultimate facts. And while it may be objected to the statement in this case that it does not properly comply with that rule, for it is quite confused and gives a mass of unnecessary details, yet we think the imperfections in that regard should not be held fatal as a sufficient statement finally emerges. This will be understood by reference to the statement itself, which we have set forth for that purpose.

The bill of exceptions contains some minor rulings on questions propounded to witnesses, but the exceptions thereto were not insisted upon in the Supreme Court nor considered by that tribunal, so that the question before us is whether the findings of fact support the judgment.

But several of the errors assigned are to the effect that the Supreme Court erred in considering or determining the case upon questions of fact, because the bill of exceptions failed to state that it contained all of the evidence given in the case, and the record failed "to show that the bill of exceptions contains all of the evidence given in the case, or all of the evidence bearing upon the questions involved in the decision" of the court.

The Supreme Court proceeded upon the record as containing all the evidence and we are not inclined to hold that the contention that it should not have done so is open to our consideration under the limitations of the statute. But, be that as it may, we think the records show that all the evidence was contained in the bill of exceptions and that that is sufficient even though the bill itself did not so state in express terms. Gunnison County Commissioners v. Rollins, 173 U.S. 225.

Paragraphs 1485 and 1582 of the Revised Statutes of Arizona 1901 (pp. 461, 474), provide:

[ 204 U.S. Page 236]

     "Every paper filed in a case shall constitute a part of the record of the case, including depositions and all written evidence and exhibits offered or admitted in evidence; and no papers thus filed or admitted in evidence, or offered in evidence and rejected by the court, need be incorporated in a statement of facts in order to make it a part of the record."

"On taking an appeal . . . the appellant . . . shall cause to be filed in the Supreme Court . . . the original record of the case, together with a copy of all minute entries made in the case, the same to be certified to by the clerk of the District Court, with the seal of the court affixed, that it contains a true copy of all minute entries made in the case, and that the papers thereunto attached are all the papers constituting the record of the case. . . ."

The clerk accordingly transmitted to the Supreme Court all of the original records and copies of the minute entries. The case, coming on for hearing, the minute entries state:

"The trial then proceeded upon the pleadings herein, in the presence of and before the court sitting without a jury, a jury having been expressly waived in open court by both parties hereto, and the plaintiff to maintain upon his part the issues herein, introduced certain documentary evidence, and also called as a witness the following named person, to wit, George W. Crowe, the plaintiff, who was duly sworn, examined and cross-examined, and thereupon the plaintiff rested his case. The defendant then, to maintain upon his part the issues herein, called as a witness the following named person, to wit, M. M. Trickey, who was duly sworn, examined and cross-examined, and thereupon the defendant rested his case. The evidence being now adduced and the case closed, arguments of the respective counsel followed, and the cause being now fully submitted, the same was by the court taken under advisement."

The evidence of two witnesses, Wilfley and Gee, was taken by deposition, and their depositions were sent up in the transcript. The minute entries show that only two witnesses,

[ 204 U.S. Page 237]

     Crowe and Trickey, administrator, were examined before the court, and their testimony is given in narrative form in the bill of exceptions, as well as the testimony of Wilfley and Gee. The minute entries, in speaking of the introduction of "documentary evidence," were manifestly intended to embrace depositions in that term. There is no room for presuming that any evidence was omitted, and the points to which the evidence adduced was addressed preclude such a suggestion.

We are brought then to the question of the sufficiency of the facts found to support the judgment. The findings may be summarized as follows:

Chapin and Neville each owned one-fourth of the mine, and on April 1, 1899, signed a paper addressed to the Consolidated National Bank of Tuscon, Arizona, which is contained in the bill of exceptions, and, by reference, in the statement of facts, and was couched in these terms:

"GENTLEMEN: The enclosed deed from N. H. Chapin, Marie Chapin, Jerry Neville and Refugia Neville, parties of the first part, to Arthur R. Wilfley, party of the second part, is to be delivered to the said Arthur R. Wilfley upon the payment of the sum of one hundred thousand dollars at or before the expiration of one year from the date hereof.

"And you are further directed that all moneys sent you from time to time by the said Arthur R. Wilfley, with instructions to apply the same to the payment of the aforesaid purchase money, shall be so applied and the same placed to the credit of N. H. Chapin and Jerry Neville.

"Therefore, if the said Arthur R. Wilfley shall pay or cause to be paid the sum of money above mentioned, at or before the time aforesaid, you will then deliver the said deed to the said A. R. Wilfley, his agent or assigns. Otherwise the said deed is to be held subject to the order of the said N. H. Chapin and Jerry Neville.

"Dated Washington, Arizona, April 1st, 1899."

This paper and the deed therein mentioned were deposited in escrow in the bank on that day.

[ 204 U.S. Page 238]

     The terms of the transaction had been arranged the latter part of March, and it was verbally agreed that Crowe should receive ten per cent commission on the purchase money received by Chapin and Neville.

Chapin died January 11, 1900, and Trickey was appointed administrator February 8, 1900, and qualified as such. Neville died January 3, 1900, and Harmon was appointed administrator and qualified as such.

Wilfley failed to pay the money and take the property, and after the expiration of the time mentioned in the escrow agreement the deed in escrow was returned to Trickey, administrator.

On April 7, 1900, the administrators of the two estates made an agreement with Wilfley to execute a deed to the half interest on payment of $100,000, in amounts prescribed. This option also expired. Thereafter, and on the nineteenth of June, 1900, Trickey, as administrator of the estate of Chapin, entered into an agreement with Wilfley to convey to him the right, title and interest of the estate of Chapin in the mining property (described as a quarter interest), on payment of $50,000, in designated amounts, and these payments were subsequently made.

Crowe had nothing whatever to do with either of the last-mentioned options, or with the sale of the property after the death of Chapin.

And the claim he presented to Trickey as administrator of Chapin's estate was for $5,000, being one-half of the commission agreed to be paid to him in March, 1899, on the purchase price which would have been received by Chapin and Neville if the option of April 1, 1899, had been carried out.

In these circumstances we concur in the judgment of the Supreme Court of the Territory.

In McGavock v. Woodlief, 20 How. 221, it was laid down that in order to be entitled to commission "the broker must complete the sale, that is, he must find a purchaser in a situation and ready and willing to complete the purchase on the terms agreed on." But this rule is inapplicable when the

[ 204 U.S. Page 239]

     owner refuses without sufficient reasons, to fulfill the agreement which the agent has made. Kock v. Emmerling, 22 How. 69. Even though he could not have been compelled to carry out his contract if he had chosen to set up the statute of frauds. Holden v. Starks, 159 Massachusetts, 503. Or when the agent's authority is revoked in bad faith before the completion of the sale. Sibbald v. Bethlehem Iron Company, 83 N.Y. 378. In this case the subject was much considered, and Finch, J., in delivering the opinion of the court, said, among other things:

"It is the established rule that a broker is never entitled to commissions for unsuccessful efforts. . . . The broker may devote his time and expend his money with ever so much devotion to the interest of his employer, and yet if he fails, if without effecting an agreement or accomplishing a bargain, he abandons the effort, or his authority is fairly and in good faith terminated, he gains no right to commissions, and in such event it matters not that after his failure and the termination of his agency, what he has done proves of use and benefit to the principal. He may have introduced to each other parties who otherwise would have never met. He may have created impressions which under later and more favorable circumstances naturally lead to, and materially assist in, the consummation of a sale. . . . This, however, must be taken with one important and necessary limitation. If the efforts of the broker are rendered a failure by the fault of the employer; if capriciously he changes his mind after the purchaser, ready and willing and consenting to the prescribed terms, is produced; or if the latter declines to complete the contract because of some defect of title in the ownership of the seller, some unremoved incumbrance, some defect which is the fault of the latter, then the broker does not lose his commissions. . . . One other principle applicable to such a contract as existed in the present case needs to be kept in view. Where no time for the continuance of the contract is fixed, by its terms, either party is at liberty to terminate it at will, subject only to the ordinary requirements of good faith.

[ 204 U.S. Page 240]

     Usually the broker is entitled to a fair and reasonable opportunity to perform his obligation, subject of course to the right of the seller to sell independently. But, having been granted him, the right of his principal to terminate his authority is absolute and unrestricted, except only that he may not do it in bad faith, and as a mere device to escape the payment of the broker's commissions. . . .

"If, after the broker has been allowed a reasonable time within which to produce a buyer and effect a sale, he has failed to do so, and the seller in good faith and fairly has terminated the agency and sought other assistance by the aid of which a sale is consummated, it does not give the original broker a right to commissions, because the purchaser is one whom he introduced and the final sale is in some degree aided or helped forward by his previous unsuccessful efforts."

In the present case what Crowe had obtained was not an absolute contract of purchase, but an option on the purchase.

The deaths of Chapin and Neville terminated the authority of Crowe to sell on commission, which was not a power coupled with an interest, that is, an interest in the property on which the power was to operate. Hunt v. Rousmanier, 8 Wheat. 174; Walker v. Walker, 125 U.S. 339.

Nevertheless, up to the first of April, 1900, if Wilfley had availed himself of the terms of the escrow agreement, the sale might have been completed and Crowe have been entitled to his commission, but Wilfley did not do so, and the deed held in escrow was returned in accordance with the terms of that agreement.

There is no legal basis for the imputation of bad faith, and it is not pretended that Crowe was employed by Trickey or rendered any service to him in the matter of the sale. The bare fact that what he had done in the former negotiations may have contributed to the accomplishment of the sale by Trickey is not enough to sustain his claim for the commission sued for.

Judgment affirmed.

19070121

© 1998 VersusLaw Inc.



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