Sweeney, Administratrix v. Sweeney Case Brief

Summary of Sweeney, Administratrix v. Sweeney, Supreme Ct. of CT (1940)

Parties: PL- Appellant – administratrix – widow of Maurice, original owner of the land

DF – John brother of owner, claims Maurice delivered a deed to him, which burned u

Cause of action/remedy sought: PL brought suit claiming DF had deeded the property back to PL’s intestate, and therefore PL had title.

Procedural History: After looking at the evidence, the trial court found that the elements of transfer of title from John to Maurice were not present as there was no intent to make a present delivery of John’s deed to Maurice, there was no delivery or acceptance thereof and the deed to Maurice was not intended to operate until John died. PL appeals lower court judgment for DF.

Facts: Maurice had town clerk draw a deed of his East Hampton property to John, and a deed from John back to himself. Maurice made him deed it back to him so that he would be protected if John died before him. He recorded the deed from himself to John, not the other. Later, Maurice gave the deeds to John. John kept both deeds, and gave the unrecorded deed to his attorney when he instituted this action, but the deed was destroyed by fire at the attorney’s office. After the deeds were written, Maurice continued to establish full dominion, and occupied, the property. In April, 1937, Maurice made a written lease to Myers of a portion of the premises and then in June 1938, made a written lease to Franke and Esther Fricke for 20 years. The 1st lease was lost but the 2nd was recorded. DF (John) never collected any money from the tenants or paid any fixed charges or repairs before his brother’s death.

Issue(s): Under CT Property law, did DF’s execution of the deed constitute a delivery, such that DF no longer held title?

Holding: Yes, this was a delivery. Further, this could not have been a conditional delivery, because it was given directly to a grantor, not a third party as required. Hence, court found error and ordered a new trial.

Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: There was in fact a delivery, unless DF’s contentions defeat this result. The deed having in effect actually delivered to Maurice, the execution of the attestation clause was prima facie evidence that the deed was delivered. Hence there is a rebuttable presumption that the grantee assented because the deed was beneficial to him.

DF offered nothing to rebut the deliver. In fact, the purpose of the delivery stated by DF was in case he died before Maurice, Maurice would get the land back, and this could not occur without a delivery. Hence, there was a delivery.

DF also claims, if there was a delivery, it was on a condition which was not and can not be fulfilled. This claim is not good because the delivery was to the grantee. A conditional delivery (delivery must be made to a 3rdperson and not the grantee) requires that the deed be placed in a third person, not a party to the deed, until the event occurs, at which time the deed would be delivered to grantee. Even though this may defeat the grantee’s intent in the case at bar, it guards against false claims, fraud and fabrication of evidence.

Rule: A conditional delivery (delivery must be made to a 3rd person and not the grantee) requires that the deed be placed in a third person, not a party to the deed, until the event occurs, at which time the deed would be delivered to grantee. Even though this may defeat the grantee’s intent in the case at bar, it guards against false claims, fraud and fabrication of evidence.

Did court avoid issues?: did it sidestep any questions that it initially appeared that it would have to answer?

Dicta: None, except town clerk should be allowed to testify at the new trial to show the use to made of the deed (but not the specific terms of it, because parol evidence was not admissible to vary the terms of the deed).




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