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Eyerman v. Mercantile Trust Co. Case Brief

Summary of Eyerman v. Mercantile Trust Co., 524 SW2d 210 (1975)

Facts: A woman died and her Will directed the executor to destroy the house and sell the property, reverting the proceeds to the estate for distribution. The area involved is a subdivision created by a trust indenture for private residences of the highest class.  The subdivision is occupied by large two and three story homes of an exclusive nature.

Issue: Whether the provision in the deceased’s Will directing the house be razed and the profits transferred to the estate would violate public policy?

Holding: Provision in will directing house to be razed and land to be sold was void as to being against public policy and without benefit.

Procedure:  Action was brought by individual property owners and trustees for subdivision for injunction preventing demolition of house in subdivision. The Circuit Court dissolved the temporary injunction and on all issues found against the Pls, Pls appealed. The Ct of App Reversed and remanded.

Law: The taking of property by inheritance or will is not an absolute right, the state may foreclose the right absolutely and may say what becomes of the property of a person, when death forecloses the deceased’s right to control it.  A testator may not impose conditions that are uncertain, unlawful, or opposed to public policy.

Rationale: Where razing the house would reduce the value of the property to $650 from $40,000, depreciate adjoining property values by an estimated $10,000, the house was important to the  neighborhood designated as landmark of the city–it is a definite piece of urban design and architecture, the space created in its absence would increase the likelihood of a detriment to the health, safety and beauty of neighborhood, there was an increased need for housing units, and no reason was suggested by will or record for the eccentric condition requiring the razing of the house, the demolition is against public policy.  Destruction of the house harms neighbors, detrimentally affects the community, causes monetary loss in excess of $39K to the estate is without benefit to the dead woman.  There are no benefits to balance against the injury.  To allow the condition of the Will would be in violation of public policy.

Pl A: Razing the house will adversely affect their property rights, violate the terms of the subdivision trust indenture, produce an actionable private nuisance, and is contrary to public policy.

Df A: The Plaintiffs lack standing to bring the action forward b/c they are not parties in interest.  The express wishes of the deceased have been memorialized in her Will and should be recognized by law as a valid instrument.



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