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Ambrosius v. Katz

OPINION FILED JANUARY 20, 1954.

EMMA AMBROSIUS, APPELLEE,

v.

MEYER KATZ ET AL., APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. R.W. GRIFFITH, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MAXWELL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is a direct appeal from a decree of the circuit court of Madison County setting aside two deeds as clouds upon the title to certain real estate and reinvesting appellee with title to the premises. A freehold is involved.

On January 23, 1946, appellee was the owner in fee simple of a residence property at 102 Sumner Boulevard in Collinsville, Illinois. On that date she conveyed this property to one Frank Ciuferi, reserving to herself a life estate. The consideration recited in the deed was past services rendered and money expended by grantee on behalf of appellee, one dollar in cash, the payment by grantee of a certain mortgage indebtedness upon the property and the payment by grantee of all future medical and funeral expenses of grantor and the further payment, after the death of appellee of the sum of $1000 to St. John's Evangelical Church of Collinsville. Ciuferi accepted the conveyance and up to June 7, 1951, expended the sum of $5328.60 in performance of his obligations under the deed.

Appellee had an adopted daughter named Della Mae Simpson who was married and lived on Portland Avenue in Collinsville. Appellee and her adopted daughter had had practically no contacts for some sixteen years prior to November, 1950. In November, 1950, appellee was about 80 years of age and was living alone in the Sumner Boulevard property. She then became ill and she and her adopted daughter renewed their family ties and relationships, and during January, 1951, appellee left her Sumner Boulevard property and went to live with Mrs. Simpson at the Simpson home on Portland Avenue. Appellee advised her adopted daughter that she had made a conveyance of her Sumner Boulevard property to Ciuferi and informed her of the terms and conditions contained in the deed, and they discussed the possibility of buying the property from Ciuferi and living in it together in their renewed relationship as mother and daughter.

On April 24, 1951, Della Mae Simpson and her husband entered into a written contract with Ciuferi whereby Ciuferi agreed to convey the property to them upon repayment to him of the sum of $5328.60 which he had expended under the terms and conditions of his deed from appellee, and the assumption by the Simpsons of the future obligations of care, support, medical and funeral expenses of appellee and the payment to St. John's Church.

On April 25, 1951, appellee consented in writing to the execution of the agreement between Ciuferi and the Simpsons and to the sale of the real estate to the Simpsons subject to the conditions contained in the deed from appellee to Ciuferi.

The Simpsons were unable to raise the money to make the $5328.60 payment to Ciuferi, so long as the prior encumbrances placed upon the property by the deed from appellee to Ciuferi were not released. They were advised by a representative of a loan company that they could obtain a loan on the premises if they could get a release of the obligations contained in the deed from appellee to Ciuferi. On June 7, 1951, Ciuferi and his wife and the trustees of St. John's Church executed and delivered a warranty deed to Della and Harold Simpson in joint tenancy, and the Simpsons executed and delivered a mortgage to secure the payment of a $9000 loan which they obtained from the loan company. Out of the proceeds of the $9000 loan Ciuferi was paid $5328.60, the trustees of St. John's Church were paid $1000, the sum of $226.72 was used to pay taxes, and loan expenses amounted to $36. The balance of $2408.68 was paid by the loan company to the Simpsons. No part of the $9000 was paid to appellee. On the same date the Simpsons listed the property for sale with one Morris.

On or about June 15, 1951, appellee and Della Mae Simpson and her family moved into the Sumner Boulevard property and lived there until about August 15, 1951, when the daughter and her family left the Sumner Boulevard property and returned to their home on Portland Avenue. Appellee continued to occupy the Sumner Boulevard place as her residence and continued to so occupy it at the time of the filing of this suit.

On September 11, 1951, the Simpsons listed the Sumner Boulevard property for sale with the appellant Meyer Katz, who was a real-estate broker, and he was to sell the property for $17,500 net.

On October 8, 1951, the appellants Meyer Katz and Frances Katz purchased the property from the Simpsons for the sum of $1000 and the further sum of $500 to be paid to Harold Simpson for certain work which was to be done by him for Meyer Katz. Meyer Katz and Frances Katz assumed and agreed to pay the $9000 mortgage on the premises, no part of which had been paid. Meyer Katz and Frances Katz had actual knowledge that appellee was residing upon the premises, but made no inquiry of her regarding her rights therein.

On November 13, 1951, appellee filed this suit. The allegations of the complaint, so far as they are material here, are to the effect that at the time of the conveyance by appellee to the Simpsons on June 7, 1951, the Simpsons made certain false and fraudulent representations to appellee and took false and fraudulent advantage of their position and relationship of trust and confidence to appellee, and that she was induced by these representations by the Simpsons and the abuse of their position of trust and confidence to execute the deed to them, and that in furtherance of a scheme to deprive appellee of her rights in said land the Simpsons executed and delivered their deed of October 8, 1951, to Meyer and Frances Katz. The complaint further alleged that there was no consideration paid by the Simpsons for their deed from appellee, and prayed that the deeds from appellee to the Simpsons and the deed from Simpsons to Meyer and Frances Katz be removed as clouds upon her title and that she be reinvested with title to the premises.

The Simpsons and the Katzes filed separate answers denying the material allegations of the complaint.

The cause was referred to a special master who conducted hearings and made a report of his findings of fact and conclusions of law. Separate objections to the master's report were filed by the Simpsons and the Katzes. These were overruled by the master, and by stipulation of counsel the objections were allowed to stand as exceptions. The chancellor overruled the exceptions and entered a decree in accordance with the master's findings and conclusions. The court found that by reason of appellee's age, infirmities, dependent status and relationship, and by reason of their written and oral agreements with appellee, the Simpsons occupied a fiduciary relationship toward appellee; that appellee was induced to execute and deliver the deed to the Simpsons by their written and oral promises and agreements to provide for her support and maintenance, and that they led her to believe that she would retain her life estate in the Sumner Boulevard property and that her care and support would be furnished to her there; that of the sum of $9000, secured by the Simpsons by reason of their mortgage, $6591.32 was devoted to charges on the property, and that the balance of $2408.68 was received by the Simpsons, and that they never accounted to appellee for any part thereof; that there was no monetary consideration nor anything of value given for appellee's deed to the Simpsons, and that there was no other consideration therefor except the written and oral promises to appellee to provide services or care, to allow her a life estate, and to pay medical, hospital and funeral expenses, and that all of such purported considerations were vitiated by the Simpsons' fraudulent intentions and by their subsequent abandonment of such agreements. The court further found that by reason of the knowledge of Meyer Katz and Frances Katz that appellee was in possession and their failure to inquire of her concerning her rights they were charged with notice of her rights in the property.

The lower court also entered a judgment in favor of appellee and against the Simpsons for the sum of $2408.68, being the balance of the loan taken by the Simpsons after payment of charges upon the property, taxes and loan expenses, and decreed that the $9000 mortgage was a valid lien because appellee had knowledge of its execution by the ...


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