APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
No complaint is made of the interlocutory decree adjudging the deeds to be mortgages, and that John Lyle, on or about January 1, 1881, agreed to pay for the lands the sum of $21,600.
The errors assigned question the action of the court in overruling exceptions to the master's report in respect of various particulars forming the basis of the amount found due, and to the finding that there was no settlement between the parties January 27, 1880; in approving the report as a whole; in finding that anything was due; in holding that complainants were entitled to a vendor's lien; in decreeing a sale; and in refusing to require George Lyle to be made a party to the action.
The deed of Rhinehart to John Lyle was dated March 28, 1878, and those of Mr. and Mrs. Shropshire, March 20, 1878, and May 1, 1878, respectively. The mortgage of the German Savings Bank was assigned to Lyle, May 2, 1879. The purchase by Lyle for $21,600 was made on or about January 1, 1881. This, therefore, is not the case of a conveyance presently made in consideration of the promise to pay the stipulated price, but of a sale of the equity of redemption, and the bill is in effect one to enforce payment of the difference between the total purchase price and the amount which it would have been necessary for the vendors to pay in order to redeem from the mortgages, if they had not sold.
The transaction took the shape of a purchase for a specified sum to be paid within a reasonable time, as no time for payment was definitely fixed, and presumably as soon as the indebtedness to the vendee could be ascertained and applied. The decree is for the balance of the purchase money alone, although under the circumstances an accounting was necessary in arriving at that balance.
The courts of the United States enforce grantor's and vendor's liens if in harmony with the jurisprudence of the State in which the action is brought, and the principle upon which such a lien rests has been held to be that one who gets the estate of another ought not in conscience to be allowed to keep it without paying the consideration. Chilton
v. Braiden's Administratrix, 2 Black, 458; Story's Eq. Jur. § 1219.
Although there is some contrariety of expression, the doctrine of a vendor's lien arising by implication seems to have been generally recognized in the State of Iowa.
In Porter v. City of Dubuque, 20 Iowa, 440, 442, the Supreme Court said: "The right to a lien in favor of a vendor upon the real estate sold to a vendee is not based upon contract; nor is it properly an equitable mortgage; neither can it be regarded as a trust resulting to the vendor by reason of the vendee holding the estate with the purchase money unpaid. It is a simple equity raised and administered by courts of chancery. It is not measured by any fixed rules, nor does it depend upon any particular fact or facts. Each case rests upon its own peculiar circumstances, and the vendor's lien is given or denied according to its rightfulness and equity, in the judgment of the court, upon the facts developed in the particular case." It was stated, however, that whether the doctrine should obtain in Iowa might be regarded as still an open question, although it had been declared in Pierson v. David, 1 Iowa, 23, that the lien was firmly established. This case is cited with approbation in Johnson v. McGrew, 42 Iowa, 555, 560, but it is added that whatever might be the view of the question under the general doctrines of equity, there could be no doubt respecting it under the provisions of the statute, and reference is then made to sections 3671 and 3672 of the Iowa Revision of 1860, which were sections 2094 and 2095 of the Code of 1851. These sections provided that the vendor of real estate, when all or part of the purchase money remained unpaid after the day fixed for the payment, might file his petition asking ...