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Murdock v. City of Memphis

United States Supreme Court
87 U.S. 20 (1875)


Murdock (plaintiff) sued the City of Memphis (the city) (defendant) in Tennessee state court. The complaint alleged that Murdock’s ancestors sold land to the city in 1844 for construction of a United States naval depot. The deed contained a clause that conveyed the property back to the grantors if it was not used as a depot. The same year, the city sold the land to the United States by warranty deed, without conditions or mention of the depot. The United States then made improvements to the property for use as a naval depot. In 1854, by act of Congress, the United States transferred the property back to the City of Memphis for the use and benefit of the city. Murdock alleged that the property instead should have reverted back to the grantors under the condition in the original deed to the city. The trial court granted the city’s motion to dismiss the complaint, ruling that the city had perfect title to the property from the United States. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed, stating that the act of Congress in conveying the property to the city controlled the issue. The United States Supreme Court granted Murdock’s writ of error.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Miller, J.)

Dissent (Bradley, J.)

Dissent (Clifford, J.)

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