Fernandez y Perez v. Perez y Fernandez
An action at law was begun November 18, 1901, in the United States district court for the district of Porto Rico by the defendant in error, Jos e Perez y Fernandez, against Jos e Antonio Fernandez y Perez, to recover in an action for 'trespass upon the case for wrongful attachment.' The declaration contained the usual averments of a declaration in a common-law action and averred that the attachment had been issued maliciously and without probable cause, and levied upon a certain two-story house then belonging to the defendant in error, in Mayaguez, Porto Rico. One Rafael Diaz Aguerria was made codefendant, and it was averred that the attachment was issued in a suit brought by Fernandez as attorney in fact and agent of Aguerria, who authorized and ratified the acts complained of. It appeared that the defendant in error, Perez, had owed about 6,000 pesos to one Claudio Barro, who died, leaving a will in which Rafael Diaz Aguerria was named as executor. The will was probated in Spain, and Aguerria qualified there as executor of the estate. Perez, on November 10, 1899, recorded a mortgage in favor of one Don Victor Ochoa y Perez for 20,000 pesos. The suit in which the attachment was issued was begun January 2, 1900, by the filing of a declaration to recover on certain notes, and was brought in the name of Aguerria as executor of the last will and testament of Claudio Barro. The action was begun in the military court established by the authority of the United States after the cession of Porto Rico, called the United States provisional court for the department of Porto Rico, which court was succeeded by the United States district court. On the date of the beginning of the suit an affidavit for attachment was filed, which was sworn to by Fernandez, plaintiff in error, purporting to have the power of attorney of Rafael Diaz Aguerria, executor of the last will and testament of Claudio Barro, the ground alleged being that the affiant had reason to believe that the defendant intended to and would fraudulently part with or conceal his property before judgment could be recovered against him, so that the judgment could not be satisfied out of the property. The summons was issued, and a writ of attachment was levied upon the premises of the defendant in error, and notice posted thereon. Further proceedings were arrested by an injunction proceeding in the United States court, brought by Jacinto Perez Barro, heir of Claudio Barro, deceased, upon the ground that Aguerria, plaintiff in the attachment proceeding, suing as executor of the will probated in Spain, had not taken out ancillary letters in Porto Rico. The action for malicious attachment was joint in form and the summons was returned as to Aguerria that the marshal was unable to find him within his district. The declaration averred that he was a resident of Porto Rico, but he was never served with summons in this case. Fernandez demurred to the declaration, averring that it appeared on its face that he was acting as the duly authorized agent of Aguerria, and was neither principal nor party plaintiff to the action against Perez, the defendant in error. This demurrer was overruled, and no exception taken to such action by Fernandez. Afterwards the general issue was filed, the case was tried to a jury without objection, and upon charge of the court substantially leaving to the jury the question whether Fernandez had caused the attachment to issue and be levied maliciously and without probable cause, to the injury of the standing and credit of the defendant in error as a merchant. A verdict was returned in favor of the defendant in error for the sum of $7,000, upon which a motion for a new trial was overruled and judgment entered.
James S. Harlan and John Maynard Harlan for plaintiff in error.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 82-85 intentionally omitted]
Messrs. Frederic D. McKenney, Francis H. Dexter, and Wayne MacVeagh for defendant in error.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 85-90 intentionally omitted]
Mr. Justice Day, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court: