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Colonial Cases

Sze Yik Kee v. Shufeldt, 1899

[land law]

Sze Yik Kee v. Shufeldt

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Goodnow, 3 March 1899
Source: North China Herald, 6 March 1899

3rd March.
Before John Goodnow, Esq., Consul-General Acting Judicially, and the Rev. J. R. Hykes and C. C. Bennett, Associates.
  This was a claim brought by Sze Yik kee against Mr. G. A. Shufeldt for the recovery of certain title deeds entrusted to him.
  The plaintiff's petition was as under:
  To the Honourable John Goodnow, Consul-General and Judge in the Court.
  The petition of the above-named plaintiff humbly showeth:
  [1.] That the plaintiff is a subject of the Emperor of China resident at Shanghai.
  [2.] That the defendant is an American citizen resident at Shanghai within the jurisdiction of this Court, and carrying on business there either alone or in partnership as a general commission merchant under the name of G. A. Shufeldt and Company.
  [3.] On or about the 7th day of February 1898, the plaintiff being then entitled to certain land situate at Pootung, in China, deposited with the defendant the Chinese Shengko paper or title deed for the said land, together with a duly executed Chinese bill of sale of the said land by the plaintiff to the defendant. At the time of such deposit it was verbally agreed between the plaintiff and the defendant that the defendant should endeavour to procure a title deed of the United States Consulate-General for the said land to be issued in the name of the defendant and the land to be registered thereunder in trust for the plaintiff. It was at the same time also verbally agreed, or was understood between the plaintiff and the defendant that of the defendant should fail to procure the issue of the said foreign title deed the said Chinese title deeds and the said bill of sale should be returned by the defendant to the plaintiff.
  [4.] At the same time when the plaintiff made the deposit mentioned in the last paragraph of this petition the defendant signed and gave to the plaintiff a receipt in writing substantially in the words and figures following:
Shanghai, 7th February,1898
Received this day from Sze Yuk Kee one Bill of Sale and the title deed for 12 mow 1.8.3 land at Pootuing.
  [5.] At the same time when the said deposit was made by the plaintiff it was verbally agreed between the plaintiff and the defendant that the plaintiff should pay to the defendant upon the issue of the foreign title deed herein before referred to a sum of Tls. 50 for his trouble in the matter. Subsequently namely on or about the 18th day of February 1898 upon the request in writing of the defendant the plaintiff agreed to increase the said sum of Tls. 50 to be paid by him to the defendant as aforesaid to Tls. 250.
  [6.] A title deed of the United States Consulate General numbered 836 is in course of issue in the name of the defendant for the said land of the plaintiff.
  On the 28th day of November 1898 upon the instructions of the plaintiff  a letter was written and sent to the defendant substantially the words and figures following:
Shanghai, 28th November,1898
  DEAR SIR, - We enclose a direction signed by Mr. Zee Yoh-kee requesting you to transfer into our names the lot of land which is in course of registration at the United States Consulate General as lot 836 in your name in trust for him and shall be glad to hear from you with an appointment to transfer the lot.
  Mr. Zee informs us that your fees in the matter have been fixed at Tls. 250 and we shall be prepared to hand you a cheque for this sum on your transferring the lot.
Yours truly,
  [8.] On the 19th day of January 1899 another letter was upon the instructions of the plaintiff written and sent to the defendant by the said Messrs. Dowdall, Hanson & McNeil pressing the defendant to transfer the said land to them upon payment of the said fee of Tls. 250.
  [9.] The defendant has not replied to either of the letters herein before set forth or referred to and has not transferred the said lot in accordance with the direction of the plaintiff and has dealt with the same as his own property.
  The plaintiff is ready and willing to pay to the defendant the agreed fee of Tls. 250 upon transfer of the said lot. Your petitioner therefore prays that the defendant may be ordered to transfer the said lot free from incumbrances in accordance with his direction upon payment of Tls. 250, and that the defendant may be ordered to pay your petitioner's costs of these proceedings and that your petitioner may have such other and further relief as to your Honourable Court may seem meet.
  And your petitioner will ever pray. Subscribed and d worn to at Shanghai this 18th day of February 1899.
Before me, John Goodnow.
Consul-General, U.S.A. Shanghai.
  The defendant George A. Shufeldt for answer to the petition of the plaintiff Sze Yik Kee says:
  That he does not deny the allegations in articles the first and second of the petition.
  That articles 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the petition the defendant answers therein that he was engaged by the plaintiff to protect his title to certain land situate at Pootung, China, and that the plaintiff was to pay him a certain sum for his services, and that to enable the defendant to prepare the title the plaintiff deposited with him certain shenko papers or title deeds, but that some time afterwards the plaintiff asserted that the said papers be returned to him they being at the time in the United States Consulate General and they were so retained by E. J. Williams who was then the interpreter for the United States  Consulate General, - After the said papers were returned to the plaintiff and the defendant believing that the agreement was at an end, the plaintiff again approached the defendant and selected his services again and that was a distinct and separate agreement or understanding that the defendant was to be compensated more in proportion to the value of the land the defendant secured for the plaintiff, and to which the plaintiff agreed. The plaintiff did entrust to the defendant a Bill of Sale and the defendant through the aid of the United States Consulate General perfected the plaintiff's title and secured under said title valuable foreshore addition to the plaintiff's land.
  The defendant has ben and is now willing to transfer the said property, whenever the plaintiff pays him a proper amount according to their second understanding for the services he rendered; for which services he rendered to the plaintiff the defendant values at Tls. 2,500 (twenty-five hundred taels) and which defendant in person notified to the Counsel for plaintiff.
  That all the papers relating to the transactions mentioned in their pleadings have been before the United States Consulate General and the defendant has taken no action  with regard to the subject matter which is not a matter of record, that the defendant never had any intention of recognising the plaintiff in any sense, and that if the plaintiiff will pay him what he considers a reasonable price for his expenses the defendant will be prepared to execute any conveyance the plaintiff under the order of the Court may direct.
  The defendant therefore prays the Court not to order any conveyance of the property until the plaintiff compensates him in accordance with the amount named as value for his services.
  That the plaintiff has no legal right to charge the defendant with wrongful conduct when the plaintiff if any wrong has been done, has under a written authority which he has signed, placed the defendant in a position to do such wrong, and that the law does not allow any one to take advantage of his own wrong act.
  For such other and further relief as the defendant's case may require.
  Subscribed and sworn to before me this 20th day of February 1899.
U.S. Consul-General Acting Judicially.
  Mr. D. McNeil (Messrs. Dowdall, Hanson and McNeil) appeared for the plaintiff, the defendant conducting his own case. After hearing the evidence of the plaintiff and the defendant and the Rev. E. T. Williams,
  His Honour delivered the following Judgment:
  In this case only two points arise. Was there a contract between plaintiff and defendant by which the latter was to receive Tls. 250 for his services in the transfer of the land in question; and, if there was no contract, what was the reasonable value of defendant's services to the plaintiff in the transfer of the land in question?
  It is admitted that the land in question is held in trust for the plaintiff. The letter of the 18th of February seems to the Court conclusive as to the existence of a contract for the payment of Tls. 250 for the services then rendered and to be rendered, which sum also seems to the Court full compensation for the value of such services.
  Wherefore it is ordered that the defendant transfer the land for which a foreign title deed is now being applied for as Lot 836 U.S. Consulate in the manner and to the person specified by plaintiff in his petition as soon as the plaintiff shall have paid into this Court Tls. 250 for the defendant's benefit and the Court costs of this proceeding.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School