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Becker v. Eddy

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

February 23, 1912

C. ADELBERT BECKER, Appellant,
v.
MAGGIE MCCREA and LUCILLE CLARK BECKER, Appellants, Impleaded with ANNIE BREVOORT EDDY and Others, Respondents.

APPEAL by the plaintiff, C. Adelbert Becker, and the defendants, Maggie McCrea and another, from a judgment of the

Page 212

Supreme Court in favor of certain of the defendants, entered in the office of the clerk of the county of Westchester on the 2d day of August, 1910, upon the decision of the court rendered after a trial at the Westchester Trial Term, a question of fact having been submitted to the jury, and also from an order entered in said clerk's office on the 20th day of July, 1910, denying the appellants' motions for a new trial made upon the minutes.

COUNSEL

Charles H. Tuttle, for the appellant Maggie McCrea.

Harlan F. Stone, for the plaintiff, appellant, and Munson & Roberts, for the appellant Lucille Clark Becker, adopting the brief of the appellant Maggie McCrea.

J. Addison Young [William S. Beers with him on the brief], for the respondents.

HIRSCHBERG, J.:

This case has been tried three times, the first two times without a jury, and on the present occasion with a jury, at the request of the appellants. There appears to be no difference in the facts as elicited on the different trials, and the only questions presented are of law.

The action is brought for the partition of certain real estate in the county of Westchester, which was owned in 1877 by Jane B. Eddy, now deceased. In that year she conveyed the property to one Bernard Spaulding and took back a purchase-money mortgage. Spaulding conveyed the property the same year to the defendant Maggie McCrea, subject to the incumbrance. The next year an action was brought by Mrs. Eddy to foreclose the mortgage, which action was prosecuted to judgment, but no sale was had thereunder. In the year 1879, after the entry of the foreclosure judgment, Mrs. Eddy took possession of the property, and she and her devisees, who are now made defendants in this action, have ever since occupied it, cultivating the land, raising and using the crops and building a barn for use upon the premises. No accounting has been had or asked for, and it may possibly be assumed, therefore, that the occupation of the property is deemed to have been profitless.

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After a period of twenty-five years of such open and undisputed possession had elapsed the defendant Maggie McCrea conveyed an undivided part of the premises to the plaintiff, and this action was then brought by him in partition. Mrs. Eddy died the next year, and her devisees and the executors and trustees of her will, upon whom her title devolved, were then made parties defendant. They answered the complaint in substance as Mrs. Eddy had done, the devisees claiming to own the premises in fee, subject to the trusts and provisions contained in the will, and setting up adverse possession in the testatrix and themselves for a period of more than twenty years.

On the first trial the court found that Mrs. Eddy as mortgagee had entered into possession of the property with the express knowledge and assent of the owner, and that such possession as mortgagee for more than twenty years was adverse, and was sufficient to support the judgment then rendered, dismissing the complaint on the merits and adjudging the title in her devisees as tenants in common. The judgment was affirmed by this court ( Becker v. McCrea, 119 A.D. 56), but was reversed by the Court of Appeals (193 N.Y. 423) on the ground that inasmuch as possession by a mortgagee can only be with the consent, express or implied, of the owner of the equity, it could not be in hostility to the legal title, and, therefore, could not be adverse. The judgment entered on the second trial was vacated for a defect of parties.

On the last trial, now under review, the court submitted to the jury a question agreed upon by the parties, namely, 'From 1888 to April, 1904, did Mrs. Jane B. Eddy continually hold possession of that fifteen-acre parcel described in the Spaulding mortgage as a mortgagee in possession under that mortgage?' which question the jury answered in the affirmative.

The judgment appealed from decrees partition of the property, but requires the payment of the mortgage prior to ...


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