Brown v. Estate of Fletcher
On April 24, 1874, a bill of complaint in a suit for an accounting was filed in the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts, sitting in equity, against George N. Fletcher, of Detroit, Michigan. The latter personally appeared and defended the suit. Without going into the details of the protracted litigation in Massachusetts, or showing how the plaintiff in error became at last the plaintiff in whose favor the Massachusetts court entered judgment, it is enough to say that on april 4, 1892, an agreement was made between the parties for submitting to arbitration all the claims and demands either party might have against the other; providing that the arbitration should be under rule of court, and that it should not operate as a discontinuance of the suit. It was further stipulated that the decease of either party should not terminate the submission, but that the arbitration should continue, and his successors and legal representatives should be bound by the final award therein. On October 18, 1893, the Hon. William L. Putnam was selected as arbitrator. On May 22, 1894, he filed a preliminary award. After this, and before a final award, Fletcher died, leaving a will, which was probated in the probate court of Wayne county, Michigan. Letters testamentary were issued to his executors, citizens of Michigan, who qualified as such, and took possession of the decedent's estate in Michigan. His principal estate, as well as his domicil, was in Michigan, but he owned two small tracts in Massachusetts. The probate court of Middlesex county, Massachusetts, by proceedings, regular in form, appointed Frank B. Cotton, a citizen of that state, administrator with the will annexed. The Massachusetts property was afterwards sold by that administrator for $350.
After the death of Fletcher the principal suit was revived, the administrator entered his appearance therein, and an order was made by the Massachusetts court that the executors and the children and residuary legatees of the decedent be notified to appear, and that in default thereof the arbitration proceed. They were notified by personal service of the order in the state of Michigan, but did not appear. The arbitration proceeded in their absence and a final award was made. It should also be stated that, on his death, Fletcher's counsel withdrew their appearance in the case. On April 14, 1903, the Massachusetts supreme judicial court confirmed the awards of the arbitrator, and adjudged that Albert W. Brown recover from Frank B. Cotton, administrator with the will annexed, the sum of $394,372.87 and $4,495.85 as interest and the costs of suits afterwards taxed as $5,385.40. It was further adjudged and decreed that the Michigan executors of the last will were bound by the final award of the arbitrator, and liable to pay to Albert W. Brown that aforesaid sums; that the legal representatives of George N. Fletcher were likewise bound by the award and liable for any deficiency. Thereafter the decree of the Massachusetts court was filed in the probate court of Wayne county, Michigan, as evidence of a claim against the estate. It was disallowed by that court, and, on appeal to the supreme court of Michigan, the disallowance was affirmed. 146 Mich. 401, 109 N. W. 686. Thereupon the case was brought here on error.
John Miner and Harrison Geer for plaintiff in error.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 84-87 intentionally omitted]
Mr. Henry M. Campbell for defendant in error.
[Argument of Counsel from page 87 intentionally omitted]
Mr. Justice Brewer delivered the opinion of the court: