Harnwell v. Arkansas Rice Growers’ Co-Operative Ass'n, 169 Ark. 622 (1925)

Oct. 26, 1925 · Arkansas Supreme Court
169 Ark. 622

Harnwell v. Arkansas Rice Growers’ Co-Operative Association.

Opinion delivered October 26, 1925.

*624George G. Lewis, for appellant.

Charles A. Walls, for appellee.

Hart, J.,

(after stating the facts.) The judgment of the circuit court was wrong. This court has held that if the contract between the landlord and a person making the crop on his place shows the intention of the parties to become tenants in common, then the title to the crop raised vests as any other chattels held in common, and either one of the common owners may maintain his action against one who has converted the property to his use for the value of his interest. Hammock v. Creekmore, 48 Ark. 264, and cases cited; and Barnhardt v. State, ante p. 567, and cases cited.

The 'contract relied upon by the plaintiff for a recovery is not set out or exhibited with the complaint; but the complaint contains a specific allegation that the plaintiff was the owner of a certain described tract of land in Lonoke County, Arkansas, and that during the year 1922, a rice crop was grown on said land under an *625agreement between the plaintiff and one L. J. Falls, by the terms of which arrangement the title to the crop was to ¡be one-half in the plaintiff and one-half in said L. J. Falls. The complaint contains the further allegation that the defendants were aware of the agreement between the plaintiff and Falls, and that the plaintiff was the owner of a one-half interest in said rice crop.

It is further .alleged that the rice crop was delivered by Falls to the defendants; that the defendants sold it and refused to pay the plaintiff her share of the proceeds and converted the same to their'own use. A demurrer was sustained to these allegations.

Under our Code, every reasonable intendment and presumption is to be made in favor of a pleading, and, if the facts stated in a complaint, together with every reasonable inference therefrom, constitute a cause of action, then a demurrer to it should be overruled. Cox v. Smith, 93 Ark. 371; Moore v. North College Avenue Improvement Dist. No. 1, 161 Ark. 323, and Sharp v. Drainage Dist. No. 7, 164 Ark. 306.

Therefore, the allegations in, the complaint that the contract was that the title to the rice crop was to be one-half in the plaintiff and one-half in Falls constituted them tenants in common of the rice crop. Hence, under the law above announced, if one tenant in common of a chattel sells it, it is an ouster and conversion, and his co-tenant may hold the wrongdoer responsible in damages to the full extent of the value of his interest in the chattel of which he has been deprived.

As we have already seen, the complaint contains an allegation that Falls delivered the rice crop to the defendants, and that it was sold by them and the proceeds converted to their own use, with the knowledge of the rights of the plaintiff.

Of course, courts of equity have jurisdiction of matters of account between owners in common of personal ■nroperty; and when such a case is presented wherein is involved a variety of adjustments, complicated accounts, or other complications, equity upon proper application *626will take charge of the case and effect distributive justice among the interested parties.

Under the allegations of the complaint, however, the necessity for entertaining equity jurisdiction of the case at bar does not exist, and the court could not treat the demurrer as a motion to transfer to equity.

It is true, as contended Iby counsel for the defendants, that the time for asserting a landlord’s lien had expired, and the plaintiff was barred by limitation from asserting any lien as landlord to the rice crop. As we have already seen, however, under the allegations of the complaint, the plaintiff and Falls were tenants in common of the rice crop and had the same rights as other tenants in common. While tenants in common of a chattel have each an equal right to the possession, and the law will not afford an action to the one dispossessed because his right is not superior to that of the possessor, still the one holding possession of the chattel cannot dispose of it without violating’ the rights of his co-tenant.

Therefore, where one tenant in common of a chattel sells it without the consent of the other, he and the purchasers have converted the property to their own use and are wrongdoers, and may be sued jointly or severally for conversion of the property by the act of sale and retention of the proceeds to the exclusion of the rights of the tenant in common who did not authorize the sale.

The result of our views is that the circuit court erred in sustaining the demurrer to the complaint, and for that error the judgment must be reversed, and the cause will be remanded with directions to overrule the demurrer, and for further proceedings according to law and not incopsistent with this opinion.