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BELIN v. STIKELEATHER ET AL.

December 10, 1957

PRINCE BELIN, APPELLANT,
v.
C.W. STIKELEATHER, J.W. WALLACE AND LOUISE SALLENGER, NEE WALLACE, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oxner, Justice.

December 10, 1957.

This action was brought by the buyer, Prince Belin, to reform a written contract for the sale of real estate and for specific enforcement of the contract as reformed. Joined as defendants were C.W. Stikeleather, the seller, Louise Sallenger, his grantee, and J.W. Wallace who acted as agent of the grantee in her dealings with the plaintiff. Stikeleather demurred to the complaint on the ground that as to him it failed to state a cause of action. From an order sustaining this demurrer, there has been no appeal. The case was then referred to the Master of Florence County who after taking the testimony filed a report recommending that the relief sought by plaintiff be denied. His report was confirmed by the Circuit Judge. This appeal by the plaintiff followed. Since J.W. Wallace was only an agent of the grantee, the real contest here is between the plaintiff Belin and the defendant Mrs. Sallenger.

Plaintiff is a Negro with a sixth grade education. He served in the army approximately three years and reached the rank of corporal. He impressed the Master as being of above average intelligence. At the reference the defendants offered no testimony. We have, therefore, only that offered by the plaintiff, which may be summarized as follows:

On November 25, 1945, Stikeleather's agent took plaintiff to see a farm in Florence County and pointed out its boundaries. The agent had no plat. Plaintiff inquired as to the number of acres in the farm. The agent replied that he did not know. Plaintiff decided to purchase the property. The price agreed upon was $5,500.00 with a down payment of $1,000.00. The next day the down payment was made and plaintiff and Stikeleather entered into the following contract:

"Seller agrees to sell to buyer and to deliver fee simple title to buyer on January 1st, 1946, to property hereinafter described, and seller acknowledges receipt of the sum of One Thousand ($1,000.00) Dollars paid by buyer, sale price to be Five Thousand Five Hundred ($5,500.00) Dollars.

"Buyer agrees to execute six per cent mortgage for the difference when sale is closed. The mortgage is to provide for payments of Twenty-five ($25.00) Dollars per month, in addition to interest; for the first twenty (20) months, and then the mortgage is to provide for annual curtailments to suit the buyer, and, of course, interest.

"The property covered by this contract is located in Back Swamp Township No. 3 in the County of Florence, State of South Carolina, in Woodville School District No. 2, and is all of the land on the west side of the proposed new paved highway from Florence to Cashua Ferry Bridge across the Pee Dee River, except one-half of the lands to the top of the hill, which are known as the swamp portion to the tract of land."

Plaintiff testified that in signing the contract he thought the descriptions referred to the same property pointed out to him by the seller's agent. Plaintiff entered into possession on December 26, 1945, but was never given a deed. Some time later he reroofed and painted the dwelling, repaired the barns, fenced in the woodland and made other improvements. He said that apart from his own labor he expended between $1,000.00 and $1,500.00 in improving the property.

In May, 1946, the seller had his property surveyed. The plat showed the part cleared and that which was in woods and the property was divided into two tracts of 53.2 acres and 34.7 acres. On this plat the surveyor made the following notations: "Map of Eighty-seven and 9/10 acres, More or Less, Surveyed at Request of J.W. Wallace. Tract `A', Containing Approximately 53.2 Acres, is Being Sold to Prince Belin. Surveyed May 29, 1946."

A month or two later the plat was delivered to the plaintiff. In reference to this, he testified as follows:

"Q. How did you gain possession of this plat? A. Mr. Wallace gave it to me.

"Q. When did he give it to you? A. In June or July of 1946.

"Q. What purpose were you given this plat, if any? A. To show me what ...


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