Summary of Baker v. Weedon, Supreme Court of MS (1972)
Parties: Baker is the representative of the appellant who are relatives of the decedent and who have a stake in the property in question. Weedon is the wife of the decedent.
Cause of action/remedy sought: The cause of action is to stop a potential sale of inherited land which was to be resold by appellee for a significant sum of money. This suit is brought so the descendents of the decedent either (1) successfully put and end to the potential sale, or (2) receive their “cut” from the potential sale. Appellee wants a forced judicial sale of the land.
Procedural History: This is an appeal from the Chancery Court of Alcorn County, which ruled in favor of DF. Remainderman granted an interlocutory appeal to settle the issue of the propriety of the lower court’s decree.
Facts: The decedent John Weedon wed a woman named Lula Edwards, which produced two kids, of which of the three daughters are represented as the appellants in this suit. After his first marriage, John married another woman Ella Howell, to which two children were born, and both since have died. John went and bought Oakland Farm and subsequently married Anna Plaxico (55 and a 17 year old). They lived together on the property, while his other marriages were strained. No contact with Mrs. Baker and threats persisted from his second daughter.
While married, Anna provided significant contribution to the farm, having plowed, fed and milked during WWI to keep the farm financially sound. Before John died, he left in his will the property in question to Anna, and any children she might have (she never had any despite marrying again, and subsequently to any of his remaining grandchildren (remaindermen), but nothing to his daughters.
Anna continued to run the farm until age forced her to stop in 1955, where she began renting out the property. Her income was $1K from rent, $300 per year from sign rental and $50 a month from social security. She needed more cash. When MS highway officials wanted to build a highway near the property, they went to John’s children, of which none were found. John’s grandchildren found out about the sale through notice and one of them, Henry Baker, came to represent their interests in Mississippi. He, as were the other grandkids, sympathetic to Anna’s plight, and settled for $20K with the highway department, of which $7500 went to Anna, the remainder minus court costs to the grandkids. A similar deal for the land’s soil for farming was executed, and Anna received a similar cut of this share as well.
Now comes rise the fact the property is worth a ton of money (some $336K in four year, $168,500 at time of trial). She wants to ease her financial situation and force judicial sale of the land.
Issue(s): Under property law, does a stake in the land in question give rise to the ability to use that stake to force a judicial sale of the land without consultation of the other party who has stake in the land?
Holding: No. In equity, the court looks at what is potentially at stake to both sides in the transaction. Here, sale without the consultation of the other party which has an interest in the property is not equitable to the appellant.
Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: (1.) It must be in everyone’s best interest. Here, if the court forced a sale, it would not be in everyone’s best interest.
(2.) Also, the court speaks about Waste. If the future interest owners and claimed that the property was being wasted – (damaged in such a way that there future interest is being diminished) – this would be Affirmative Waste. Its waste because the freehold would be different when compared to the future interest.
A Permissive Waste is waste via negligence. Not doing repairs. Letting the property deteriorate.
Ammiloriated Waste is when a life tenant is not allowed to change the property in order to increase the property.
(3.) “Here, what is she doing to waste the property?” Nothing. She nor the defendants are alleging waste. She is alleging that she needs money to live. AGAIN – WASTE has NOTHING to do with this case.
(4.) She is coming to the Court of Equity claiming “necessity.”
She needs money. The court says you just cannot look at her needs (in a Court of Equity) – but you must look at the other side. Equity cannot be used to injure other innocent people. Woman must show that they (defendants) won’t be harmed – that it is in their best interests, too.
(5.) “What does the Appellate Court do – what should the Chancellor do when it is remanded back to him?”
They are saying go back to equity and try to reach an equitable agreement; If they cannot, then they will have to partition the land, so that the future interest holders can get their share of the land.
Rule: The court says you just cannot look at the appellee’s needs (in a Court of Equity) – but you must look at the other side. Equity cannot be used to injure other innocent people (potentially appellants).
Did court avoid issues?: N/A.