This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
As regards the necessity of a specific description of the debt, otherwise than in reference to amount, no particular strictness appears to exist, except perhaps in the state of Connecticut.9 While in a number of cases it is said to be sufficient that the obligation secured is described in the mortgage with "reasonable certainty,"10 a description in quite general terms, as in the
Citizens' Sav. Bank v. Kock, 117 Mich. 225, 75 N. W. 458.
5. Youngs v. Wilson, 27 N. Y. 351; Soule v. Albee, 31 Vt. 142; But in Connecticut the maximum amount of the obligation must be named. Bridgeport Land & Title Co. v. George Orlove Co., 91 Conn. 496, 100 Atl. 30.
6. Stoughton v. Pascoe, 5 Conn. 442, 13 Am. Dec. 72; Holley's Ex'r v. Curry, 58 W. Va. 70, 112 Am. St. Rep. 944, 51 S. E. 135.
7. Seymour v. Darrow, 31 Vt. 122, per Redfield, C. J.
8. Hurd v. Robinson, 11 Obio St. 232, per Gholson, J.
9. See, as instances of the strictness enforced in this respect in Connecticut, Pettibone v. Gris-wold, 4 Conn. 158; Bramhall v. Flood, 41 Conn. 68. The course of decision in this state in this regard has been criticized in other states. See Hurd v. Robinson, 11 Ohio St. 232; Clark v. Hyman, 55 Iowa, 14, 39 Am. Rep. 160, 7 N. W. 386.
10. Winchell v. Coney, 54 Conn. 24, 5 Atl. 354; Beach v. Osborne, case of a mortgage undertaking to secure all debts owing or which may be owing by the mortgagor to the mortgagee, has been not infrequently upheld.11 And a mortgage in terms merely securing an indebtedness to a certain amount has been regarded as valid security for future advances to that amount.12
Application of description. A question has frequently arisen whether a particular debt could be regarded as within the language of the mortgage instrument descriptive of the indebtedness secured, so as to entitle that particular debt to the benefit of the security. This would seem to be a question of the interpretation and application of the language used, in the light of the surrounding circumstances, as in the case of any other language of a descriptive character.12a It cannot be required that the language name all the details of the debt intended to be secured, provided enough are named to identify the debt.13 That this is so appears from the decisions that the amount of the debt need not be stated.14 And so when the amount of the debt was correctly stated, it was regarded as immaterial that no reference was made to the fact that the debt was evidenced by a number of notes for different sums, aggregating the amount of the debt.15
74 Conn. 405, 50 Atl. 1019, 1118; Pearce v. Hall, 12 Bush. (Ky.) 209; Webb v. Stone, 24 N. H. 282; Gilman v. Moody, 43 N. H. 259; Goff v. Price, 42 W. Va. 384, 26 S. E. 287.
11. Curtis v. Flinn, 46 Ark. 70; Hoye v. Burford, 68 Ark. 256, 57 S. W. 795; Machette v. Wanless,
I Colo. 225; Clark v. Hyman, 55 Iowa, 14, 39 Am. Rep. 160, 7 N. W. 386; Michigan Ins. Co. v. Brown,
II Mich. 266; Hogdon v. Shar-mon, 44 N. H. 572; Hurd v. Robinson, 11 Ohio St. 232; Seymour v Darrow, 31 Vt. 122; Vanmeter v. Vanmeter, 3 Gratt. (Va.) 148.
12. Shirras v. Caig, 7 Cranch U. S.) 54, 3 L. Ed. 260; Moses v. Hatfield, 27 S. C. 324, 3 S. E. 538. See Mix v. Cowles, 20 Conn. 420; and post, this section, note 35, and Sec. 637, note 83.
12a. See Lines v. Brandon, 129 Ark. 27, 194 S. W. 867; Lamoille County Sav. Bank Trust Co. v. Belden, 90 Vt. 535, 98 Atl. 1002.
13. Webb v. Stone, 24 N. H. 282; Winchell v. Coney, 54 Conn. 24, 5 Atl. 354; Hill v. Banks, 61 Ccnn. 25, 23 Atl. 712; See 4 Wig-more, Evidence, Sec. 2476.
14. Ante, this section, note 3.
Applying the doctrine ordinarily referred to by the maxim falsa demonstratio non nocet,16 the fact that a particular debt does not answer to some details of the description does not have the effect of excluding it from the benefit of the security, provided those details can be regarded as non essential.17 Whether particular terms of the description are thus essential or non essential is to be determined with reference to the facts of the particular case, and in considering whether a particular debt can be regarded as within the description, a considerable discrepancy between the debt and the terms of description in the mortgage instrument might suffice to exclude the debt from the benefit of the security, not only as rendering it less possible, by extrinsic evidence, to bring the debt within the scope of the description, but also for the reason that otherwise the mortgage might operate injuriously upon the interests of subsequent purchasers, mortgagees or creditors, who had no reason to suppose that the particular debt in question was secured thereby, and dealt with the mortgagor on the theory that the debt secured was no other than that described in the mortgage instrument.18 Accordingly, while a slight discrepancy between the amount which the mortgage undertakes to secure and the amount of a debt claimed to be secured thereby will not exclude the debt from the benefit of the security,19 particularly if the mortgage describes the debt as "about" a certain amount,20 a very great discrepancy as regards the amount may have that effect, particularly if the amount named in the mortgage is the smaller amount, since in that case the debt can not well be regarded as a part of the entire indebtedness secured, and a third person dealing with the mortgagor has a right to assume that a mortgage for an amount named is not for a much greater amount.21 And while it has been held that a debt was within the language of the mortgage instrument, and was therefore entitled to the benefit of the security, although the time of maturity of the debt was misstated,22 the name of the indorsee of the note was given as that of the payee,23 the name of one of the five obligors was omitted,24 or the collateral bond was described as in favor of the mortgagees while in reality in favor of the mortgagees and and two others,25 it has on the other hand been decided that a mortgage in terms securing an absolute indebtedness could not be construed as securing a contingent indebtedness as guarantor or surety, at least as against a bona fide purchaser.26