Christy v. Scott

55 U.S. (14 How.) 282 (1853)



A mere intruder cannot enter on a person actually seized, and eject him, and then question his title, or set up an outstanding title in another. The maxim that the plaintiff must recover on the strength of his own title, and not on the weakness of the defendant's, is applicable to all actions for the recovery of property. But if the plaintiff had actual prior possession of the land, this is strong enough to enable him to recover it from a mere trespasser, who entered without any title. He may do so by a writ of entry, where that remedy is still practiced or by an ejectment or he may maintain trespass. 


Plaintiff sought review of a judgment of the District Court of the United States for the District of Texas, which found in favor of defendant. Plaintiff alleged that he was seized in his demesne as of fee in a certain tract or parcel of land from which defendant ejected him. Plaintiff sought a judgment for damages and for the recovery of the lands. The petition avers a seisin in fee, on a particular day, and an ouster by the defendant. The defendant shows no title in himself to the land demanded, but asserts that the plaintiff claims title by a pretended grant. But no grant, under which either party claims, appears on the record, nor is the court informed, through an exhibition of any title papers, by what authority, or through what instrument, or for what consideration, or upon what conditions the title to these lands, originally passed rom the State; or, whether more than one title thereto has, in fact, been made by the State; nor how, or when, if at all, any title came from the State to either of the parties.


Should defendant's claim over the property prosper considering he himself can show no title over it?




Without setting up any title in the defendant, it pleads certain evidence or source of title, which, it avers, the plaintiff relies on, and then states facts, to show that such title is invalid. This is not admissible. According to the settled principles of the common law, this is not a defence to the action. The plaintiff says he was seised in fee, and the defendant ejected him from the possession. The defendant, not denying this, answers, that if the plaintiff had any paper title, it was under a certain grant which was not valid. He shows no title whatever in himself. 

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.