Davis v. Tileston
THIS case was brought up by writ of error from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Mississippi.
In the year 1838, Thomas Davis, the plaintiff in error, received three thousand dollars from the Aberdeen and Pontotoc Railroad and Banking Company in the notes of that institution, and gave his bond for the delivery of seventy-five bales of cotton at the town of Burlingham, on the Tallahatchie River, on or before the 1st day of the ensuing March. According to his own statement in the bill which he afterwards filed, he paid $1,685.50, and delivered eighteen bales of cotton, subject to the order of the company. The precise time of this payment and delivery was not stated.
On the 12th of December, 1839, William M. Tileston and Charles N. Spofford, residing in New York, and carrying on business under the name of William M. Tileston & Co., obtained a judgment in the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Mississippi against the Aberdeen and Pontotoc Railroad and Banking Company, for a sum of money, the amount whereof is nowhere stated in the record.
Upon this judgment, a writ, called a writ of garnishment, was issued by way of execution, and served upon Davis. This writ was returned, duly executed, to June term, 1840.
At December term, 1840, judgment was rendered against Davis and his securities, as debtors to the Aberdeen and Pontotoc Railroad and Banking Company for $1,861 and costs.
A fieri facias was issued upon this judgment in favor of Tileston & Co., returnable to June term, 1841.
On the 10th of June, 1841, Davis paid, on account of the judgment, $242.77, which was duly credited.
At December term, 1841, a return was made of property levied upon, with its valuation, but no further proceedings appear then to have taken place.
In July, 1843, Davis filed a bill on the equity side of the court against Tileston & Co., to enjoin the judgment obtained against him at December term, 1840. The bill recited the above facts, and then proceeded thus:--
'Your orator further states unto your Honor, that, before the rendition of the said judgment upon the said garnishment in favor of William M. Tileston & Co. against your orator, he paid upon the said cotton bond $1,685.50, or about that sum, and delivered at the town of Burlingham, according to his contract, eighteen bales of good cotton, averaging in weight about five hundred pounds, and subject to the order of the said Aberdeen and Pontotoc Railroad and Banking Company, and which cotton was shipped on board of steamer Big Black, Steilling, master, without the orders of or being subject to the control of your orator; and said cotton was left by said steamer at the house of and in the care of Young & Richards, Vicksburg, Miss., and by them twelve of said bales were shipped to George Buckanan, of New Orleans, for the benefit of and on account of the said Aberdeen and Pontotoc Railroad and Banking Company. The remaining six bales were shipped and sold in New Orleans, from the said house of Young & Richards in Vicksburg, for the benefit of and in the name of one Dickens, for between fourteen and fifteen cents per pound; and the said Dickens was found by your orator on the western bank of the Mississippi River, in the State of Arkansas, about forty miles above Memphis, Tennessee; and the proceeds of the sale of the said six bales of cotton were collected from him by your orator, amounting to about four hundred dollars, but not one cent has ever been collected for the twelve bales shipped to Buckanan, for and on account of the said bank, or applied by said bank to the credit of your orator's bond.
'Your orator further states, that, relying upon the statements of the agents of the said bank, solemnly made and often reiterated, that they knew nothing about the twelve bales of cotton or any other part of the eighteen bales shipped as before stated, he did not know of the shipment of said twelve bales of cotton from Young & Richards, Vicksburg, to Buckanan, of New Orleans, for and on account of the said Aberdeen and Pontotoc Railroad and Banking Company, until long after the rendition of said judgment in December, 1840, against your orator, as a debtor to said bank, in favor of the said William M. Tileston & Co., and was kept from his legal and lawful defence and credits, on the trial of said garnishment, by the false assurances of the bank and its agents, so made to your orator as aforesaid, and, as your orator fully believes, intended for and made to lull him to sleep, and impose upon his general credulity and confidence in his fellow-man where the least show of honesty is to be discovered. Your orator further states unto your Honor, that he was not apprised of, but wholly ignorant of the fact, that the said twelve bales of cotton were shipped by the agents of the said bank from Vicksburg to New Orleans, as above stated, until by a critical examination, about a year or thereabouts since, through his agent, the facts were ascertained to be as before stated.'
The bill then proceeded to charge a fraudulent combination between the bank and Tileston & Co., by setting up a fictitious claim against the bank for the purpose of depriving Davis of the benefit of paying the bank in its own depreciated notes, and finally averred that the only part of the debt still due was $809.47, which he tendered in the notes of the bank.
An injunction was issued according to the prayer of the bill.
In June, 1844, the defendants filed a demurrer, and assigned the following causes:--
1st. The bill shows that the complainant had a full and complete remedy at law, which he has neglected.
2. That the bill shows that complainant knew, at the time he answered the garnishment against him, that no credit had been given for said cotton, and having at that time acquiesced in the conduct of the bank, and acknowledged himself indebted to the amount of defendant's judgment, he cannot now reopen the judgment in this court to be heard, to deny what he might and ought to have denied in his said answer to said garnishment.
3d. That it appears, by complainant's own showing, that judgment was rendered against him on his answer at December term, 1840; that he made a payment and satisfaction of said judgment by the execution and forfeiture of a forthcoming bond in May, 1841; that as late as between June and December, 1841, he took the benefit of the valuation law on said execution, and postponed further action by the said defendants for twelve months thereafter, without ever settling up the matter contained in his bill, or claiming any deduction or offset from the said judgment in favor of defendants.
4th. That the pretended charge of fraud is not specifically stated, but is vague, uncertain, and indefinite in general.
5th. That the said bill seeks to offset the judgment of defendants against said complainant on his answer, and to pay and discharge the same with the bills and liabilities of the Aberdeen and Pontotoc Railroad and Banking Company, obtained by him after he has acknowledged himself indebted in his answer, and after judgment has been rendered against him in favor of defendants, and after he has executed a forthcoming bond, and the same has been forfeited and become a new judgment against him in favor of defendants, and after he has availed himself of the valuation law on said judgment.
6th. That the said bill shows no equity on its face.
There being a joinder in demurrer, the case was, on the 11th of June, 1844, set down for hearing on the bill and demurrer at the next term of the court.
On the 2d of December, 1844, a rule for decree pro confesso was entered, and on the 3d of December, the defendants, Tileston & Co., filed their answer, which it is not necessary to recite.
On the 6th of December, 1844, the final decision of the District Court was signed and ordered to be enrolled, as follows:
'This cause came on to be heard at this term, and was argued by counsel; and thereupon, upon consideration thereof, it was ordered, adjudged, and decreed as follows, viz.: that the demurrer of the defendants to the said bill of complaint of the complainants be sustained, and the said bill dismissed.
'It is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed, that the defendants go hence and recover of the complainants the costs in and about this cause expended, for which execution may issue.'
The complainant appealed from this decree to this court.
The cause was argued by Mr. R. Davis, for the appellant, and Mr. S. Adams, for the appellees.
Mr. Justice WOODBURY delivered the opinion of the court.