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Law School Case Brief

Willis v. Moore - 59 Tex. 628 (1883)

Rule:

Crops, whether growing or standing in the field ready to be harvested, are, when produced by annual cultivation, no part of the realty. They are liable to voluntary transfer as chattels. They may be seized and sold under execution. Such crops will pass by the sale of the land if they belong to the owner of the land at time of sale. As, however, the crops are separate and distinct in their nature from the land upon which they grow, the ownership of the one, even on mortgaged property, may be in one person, and the title to the other in another; and whenever crops growing or standing upon land covered by a lien given by the owner of the land, or acquired by law, have in law or in fact been severed in ownership, or actually severed from the land prior to sale of the land under the lien, title thereto will not pass by the foreclosure of the lien.

Facts:

The mortgagor owned a plantation that consisted of land in cultivation. The mortgagor executed several promissory notes, a deed of trust to secure the notes, and he authorized the sale of the land at a public auction if he failed to pay the notes at maturity. The mortgage was subsequently assigned to the mortgagee. The mortgagor's son, the lessor, entered into a contract with the lessee to split the crop proceeds from the same plantation. The mortgagor defaulted, and the mortgagee purchased the plantation at a judicial sale.

Issue:

Whether mortgagor was entitled to sever in law or fact the crops that stood upon his land at any time prior to the destruction of his title by a sale under the mortgage?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the trial court's judgment that found in favor of defendants in the mortgagee's action to recover the crop proceeds because the mortgagor was entitled to sever in law or fact the crops that stood upon his land at any time prior to the destruction of his title by a sale under the mortgage. The title to the mortgaged property remained in the mortgagor until the sale; therefore, the crop proceeds belonged to the lessor and the lessee, not the mortgagee who purchased the property at a foreclosure sale.

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