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United States Supreme Court

81 U.S. 252

Hook  v.  Payne

Ann Payne, a citizen of Virginia, filed a bill in chancery in the Circuit Court of the United States for Missouri, against Zadok Hook and others, citizens of the State of Missouri. Hook had acted as administrator of the estate of one Curtis, and the other defendants were sureties on his official bond, and the object of the bill was to assert the right of the complainant, as one of the heirs of Curtis, to an account and a distribution of the assets in Hook's hands. But she had received of Hook a certain sum of money, in consideration of which she had signed a paper which might be called either a release or assignment to Hook of all her interest in the estate of which he was administrator, and she charged in her bill that this instrument had been procured by fraud, and prayed to have it set aside and held for naught. She also charged that certain settlements made by Hook with the County Court, which had probate jurisdiction of such matters, were fraudulent, and she prayed that they be restated, and she alleged that she was entitled to one-eighth part of the estate of the said Curtis on final distribution, and prayed that on a fair statement of the administrator's account a decree be rendered in her favor for the one-eighth of the sum found in his hands subject to distribution.

Susan Curtis and Mary Gwinn, each of whom held a like interest with Ann Payne in the estate, had signed the same paper, and each of them brought a similar suit to that brought by Ann Payne, in the same court, and though the bills in these cases were not in the record, it was conceded that except in the name of the complainants they were identical with that of Ann Payne. These suits were consolidated before answer, by order of the court, and were treated in the subsequent proceedings as one case.

The defendants answered, and the court made an interlocutory decree setting aside the release given by the complainants and the settlements made by Hook with the County Court, and appointed a master to state an account with Hook as administrator, and he was directed to inquire what other persons were interested in the estate besides the complainants, and to report what payments, if any, had been made to them, and what was due to them, respectively, at the date of the report.

The report of the master seemed, as this court considered, to have been based upon diligent inquiry and accurate information, and if the principles on which it is founded were sound, there seemed to be no reason to question the facts on which it proceeded.

It charged the administrator with interest on all that came to his hands at the rate of 10 per cent. per annum, with annual rests. It reported the names of all who were entitled to distribution, which the master believed he had correctly ascertained. He said that some of these appeared before him, either in person or by attorney, and claimed their rights in the estate, while others did not, and he gave the names of those who did and of those who did not. He reported that, as to some who appeared, they had given releases similar to those given by the complainants, and that, though this was shown, he disregarded them, and allowed their interest as though the releases were void, and ascertained and reported what was due to each distributee, whether appearing or not. The final decree modified the report by substituting 8 per cent. per annum as the rate of interest, and confirmed it in all other respects, and made a final decree distributing the estate according to the report, and ordering Hook to pay to each person the specific sum found due, with interest from the date of the report. On the subject of the annual rests, and as a ground therefor, it appeared that nearly all the bonds and notes belonging to the estate bore 10 per cent. interest, which was collected by Hook, who failed to charge himself with the interest received; that he had used the money of the estate in trade and speculation; buying and selling gold, discounting paper, and lending it at full interest. In answering the bill, too, and in giving testimony, he dealt mostly in generalities, when positive information was called for. He could not tell when he made collections, nor in what amounts; 'paid no particular attention;' lent the money 'from time to time;' but to whom he lent it, in what amounts, when the money was collected, and how long he kept it on hand, or when he re-lent it, he did not state, but said he had kept no accounts by which he could answer these questions. He admitted that he had deposited the trust money with certain bankers named, but he did not produce his deposit books, because, as he said, his private funds were mixed up in the accounts; to what amount he could not remember. His loans and deposits of the estate's money were in his own name, excepting one loan. On the other hand he attempted to prove by sundry witnesses that in their opinion money could not have been lent at certain times during the war at all.

The case coming here many objections were taken to the decree, among them two, much insisted on:

1st. That the court had disposed of the rights of parties who were in no kind of way actually or in contemplation of law before it.

2d. That the rate of interest was too high, and that the case was not one for rests.

Mr. J. B. Henderson, for the appellants; Messrs. Glover and Shepley, contra.

Mr. Justice MILLER 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).