RED RIVER VALLEY BANK V. CRAIG, 181 U. S. 548 (1901)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Red River Valley Bank v. Craig, 181 U.S. 548 (1901)

Red River Valley Bank v. Craig

No. 231

Argued and submitted April 11, 1901

Decided May 13, 1901

181 U.S. 548


There is no such difference in the several statutes of North Dakota, so far as regards the rights of the parties, as to forbid the application of the latest statute to a case where a mortgage was forgiven, and the materials furnished prior to its passage, and the legislation under review cannot be held to violate any rights of the plaintiff in error protected by the Constitution of the United States.

A mortgage which is subsequent to the right of subsequent lienors who furnish materials or labor in the erection of a building to sell the same, and have it removed for the payment of the liens, is not reduced in value by a statute authorizing the sale of the property such as is set forth in the opinion of the Court.

This action was brought to enforce certain mechanic's liens provided for by section 4796, Revised Code of North Dakota, upon real estate described in the complaint. The trial resulted in a judgment in favor of the lienors, which on appeal was affirmed by the supreme court of the state, and the Red River Valley National Bank of Fargo, one of the defendants below, has brought the case here by writ of error.

The trial court found the following facts: on July 8, 1884, Elvira Cooper was the owner of the property, being lot 6, block 5, of the original townsite of Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota, and on that day she, with her husband, mortgaged it to secure the payment of the sum of $3,000 to the Travelers' Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut. Prior to January 1, 1893, the mortgagor sold and conveyed the property, chanrobles.com-red

Page 181 U. S. 549

subject to the mortgage, to one Rosa Herzman, who remained the owner until the foreclosure of the mortgage under the statute and the sale of the property to the insurance company, which took place on May 7, 1894, and on that day, a sheriff's certificate of sale was issued to it. On January 12, 1895, the insurance company assigned this certificate of sale to the plaintiff in error, and on May 17, 1895, it received from the sheriff a deed of the premises. During the time of the ownership of the property by Rosa Herzman, she erected upon the lot a two-story and basement brick building, which was completed by February 3, 1894, and which still remains on the lot in good condition. During the summer and fall of 1893, various work was done and materials furnished upon and for the building for which the owner of the premises failed to pay in full, and thereafter and between November 17, 1893, and February 2, 1894, various persons who had furnished materials or performed work and labor for and in the erection of the house filed their liens, and subsequently, on November 15, 1898, commenced this action to foreclose the same against (among others) the plaintiff in error as the owner of the property.

It was also found by the court that the east and west walls of this new two-story brick building were party walls, the east wall standing equally upon its own and the adjoining lot, while the west wall stood wholly upon its adjoining lot, and the walls were built in pursuance of an agreement to that effect between the owners of the different lots, so that the building in question and those on each side constituted a solid row of three brick buildings belonging to different owners, and the building was incapable of being removed from the lot unless it were first torn down. It was also found that it would be for the best interest of all parties that the land and the improvements thereon should be sold together, and that the land and the improvements were of equal value, each one being at least of the value of $2,500. The judgment, after adjudging the amounts of the liens of the various parties, gave the plaintiff in error the privilege of paying the same within thirty days from the service of a copy of the judgment, and in default, after proper notice, the property was directed to be sold by the sheriff of Cass County, and of chanrobles.com-red

Page 181 U. S. 550

the moneys received therefor, one-half was directed to be paid and delivered to the plaintiff in error, and from the other half the lienors were to be paid, and if there were any excess after such payment, it was to be paid over to the bank.

At the time of the execution of the mortgage, the mechanics' lien law then in existence was known as chapter 31 of the Code of Civil Procedure, as found in the Revised Codes of 1877. Sections 655, 666, and 667 are set out in the margin. [Footnote 1]

At the time when the work was done upon and the materials furnished for the erection of the house, the mechanics' lien law in force is to be found from sections 5468-5485, Compiled Laws, N.D. 1887. Section 5469 is the same as section 655, of chapter 31, above mentioned, with the exception of an immaterial addition at the end of the section, while section 5480 is identical with section 666 of that chapter. Section 5481 is a substitute for section 667 of the same chapter, and is set forth in the margin. [Footnote 2] chanrobles.com-red

Page 181 U. S. 551

It is evident that the law was in substance the same on this subject when the mortgage was executed and when the work was done and the materials furnished.

The mechanics' lien law in existence at the time that this action was brought is to be found from sections 4788-4801, Revised Code of 1895. Section 4788 would seem to be a substitute for section 655 of chapter 31, above mentioned, and section 4795 is a substitute for section 666 of the same chapter. These sections are placed in the margin. [Footnote 3] chanrobles.com-red

Page 181 U. S. 552


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