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United States Supreme Court

30 U.S. 151

Henderson  v.  Griffin

ERROR to the circuit court of the United States, for the district of South Carolina.

This was an action of trespass instituted in the circuit court to try titles, according to the forms prescribed by the local law of South Carolina; by which this action is substituted for an ejectment.

The plaintiffs proved a good title to a tract of land in Abbeville district, South Carolina, under the will of Henry Laurens, who devised the land in question to Dr and Mrs Ramsay and their heirs, in trust for the use and behoof of Frances Eleanor Laurens (now the wife of Francis Henderson), during her life, &c. The jury found a verdict for the plaintiffs for a part of the said land, with damages. But the defendant having set up a claim under the statute of limitations, the plaintiffs, in reply, showed, from the records of the state court, that this action was commenced the 29th of May 1823; and on the 21st of November 1823, a rule was made and entered by the said court against the plaintiffs, in these words: 'Francis Henderson and Wife vs. John Carey, and the Same vs. Other Defendants, to the number of forty, including Ira Griffin. On reading the affidavit of Henry Gray, it is ordered that the plaintiffs show cause on Monday morning, why all proceedings in these cases should not be stayed until the costs of the actions prosecuted in the names of the heirs of David Ramsay, by the same plaintiffs, in the state court, against the same defendants, be paid.' On the return of this rule, counsel were heard for and against it; and on the 20th of April 1824, the court ordered that upon a taxed bill of costs in the state court being made out, the same be forthwith paid by the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in the circut court, by their counsel, showed on the trial, that the suit in the state court, prosecuted in the name of the heirs of David Ramsay, against the defendant, was regularly discontinued in that court on the 23d of October 1822, and they were compelled to pay the costs of that suit before they could proceed with the present. And the plaintiffs' counsel contended that the title was not barred by the act of limitations when the suit in the name of the heirs of Ramsay was commenced; and the act did not run against the plaintiffs since that time, inasmuch as the present suit ought to be joined and connected with the said former suit in the state court. But the court, admitting that the plaintiffs' title was not barred at the commencement of the first suit, instructed the jury that the present suit could not be connected with the former, and the jury found a verdict accordingly. To which instruction and finding, the plaintiffs' counsel excepted, and prosecuted this writ of error.

The counsel for the plaintiffs in error claimed to reverse the judgment in the circuit court because the suit in the state court, in the name of the heirs of Ramsay, trustees for the plaintiffs, ought to have been connected with the present action; being for the same land, under the same title, and by the showing of the same defendant upon the records of the court, prosecuted by the same plaintiffs, in the name of their trustees.

The case was argued by Mr Wirt and Mr M'Duffie, for the plaintiffs in error; and by Mr Warren R. Davis, for the defendant.

For the plaintiffs, it was contended; that the suit in the state court, and that which was subsequently instituted in the circuit court, being substantially between the same parties and for the same tract of land, was fully within the provision of the act of assembly of South Carolina, which saved the parties to such a suit from the effect of the limitation.

The nineteenth section of the act of 1744 declares, that if in an action of ejectment there shall be a nonsuit or discontinuance, or letting fall of the action, it shall not be conclusive; and the party may institute another suit within two years, and thus have the benefit of the time in which the first suit was instituted.

The object of the first suit was to maintain the title of the cestui que trusts, and the names of the heirs of Mr Ramsay were used for no purpose of their own, but only with the same object as that in the present suit. They were parties to that suit in form only; essentially Mr and Mrs Henderson were the plaintiffs. The defendant, by the first suit, had notice of the plaintiffs' title, thus they were within the words as well as the spirit of the exception in the law of South Carolina. 2 M'Cord's Rep. 252. 2 Brevard's Statutes of South Carolina, 21, 24.

The order on the plaintiffs to pay the costs of the suit in the state court showed that there was, in the opinion of the court, a connection between the suits. One was deemed a continuation of the other. Cited, Tidd's Practice, 479, 480. 3 Bos. & Pull. 22. 2 Esp. 75, 493. 1 Strange, 1192. 8 Cranch, 462.

Mr Davis, for the defendant, insisted; that the parties to the two suits were different. The legal title, asserted in the suit in the state court, was claimed to be in the plaintiffs in that suit; and in the suit now before the court, other parties sought to maintain their legal title. The provisions of the law of South Carolina applied only to cases between the same parties, and who claimed, in the second suit, the title set up by them in the first suit.

Mr Justice BALDWIN delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).