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United States Supreme Court

82 U.S. 140

Pickersgill  v.  Lahens

APPEAL from the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York; the case being this:

A statute of the State of New York thus enacts:

'No injunction shall be issued to stay the trial of any personal action at issue in any court of law until the party applying therefor shall execute a bond, with one or more sufficient sureties, to the plaintiff in such action at law, in such sum as the chancellor or master allowing the injunction shall direct, conditioned for the payment to the said plaintiff, and his legal representatives, of all moneys which may be recovered by such plaintiff or his legal representatives, . . . in such action at law, for debt or damage, and for costs therein.'

With this statute in force, Pickersgill sued Lahens at law in the Superior Court of New York, a common law court, on certain indorsements. Thereupon Lahens filed a bill in the Court of Chancery of the State, for relief against the indorsements; and having done so, applied, under the above-quoted act, for an injunction to stay the trial at law. The court upon the filing of a bond meant to be such as the above-quoted act required, granted a temporary injunction staying the suit at law till an answer to the bill in chancery should come in. The bond was the joint bond (not the joint and several bond) of Lahens and one Lafarge; this Lafarge not having been any party to the suits already mentioned, nor interested in them, and not deriving any benefit from his joining in the bond. The bond recited the action at law against Lahens, the bill and injunction in chancery, and the condition of the instrument was that the obligors should pay all moneys which should be recovered in the suit at law. Answers to the bill for relief having come in, the action at law proceeded, and a judgment was rendered against Lahens for $129,000. Before this time Lafarge had died; and at the time Lahens had become insolvent. Thereupon Pickersgill filed a bill in equity against the executors of Lafarge, to have his estate pay the amount of the bond, with interest from the recovery of the judgment against Lahens. The executors demurred; assigning among other grounds of demurrer that it appeared by the bill that Lafarge was not severally bound by the bond, but only jointly bound with Lahens; that Lafarge received no consideration for becoming an obligor; that he was not interested in any of the matters in consequence whereof the bond was given, and was merely a surety therein, and that he departed this life before the filing of the present bill, leaving Lahens surviving him, who was still alive. The court below sustained the demurrer; acting doubtless on the ancient principle of equity, announced with a clear mention of its grounds by GRIER, J., for this court, in the United States v. Price, [*] that after the death of one joint obligor (the other surviving) the estate of the one deceased cannot be pursued in equity unless there was 'some moral obligation antecedent to the bond;' the which obligation the court declared could not exist where the deceased obligor had been but a surety. To review the action of the court in sustaining the demurrer this appeal was taken.


Mr. W. W. McFarland, for the appellant:


If the fact that Lafarge is not shown to have had any direct pecuniary interest in the subject-matter of the action at law, or to have derived any personal benefit from the giving of the bond in question, is sufficient to bring the case within the decision made in the United States v. Price, the demurrer must be sustained. But we contend that in legal intendment both the obligors are to be regarded as principals, so far as the rights of the plaintiffs are concerned. In the case of statutory obligations of this character, it is the intention of the statute and not the intention of the party, that ought to control. The statute requires the bond to be given for the protection and indemnity of the parties, against whom the relief is sought, and whose rights are imperilled by its being granted, and it requires that sureties shall be given for the better security of the plaintiff. It is not a question of contract. The plaintiff has no election to accept or refuse to accept the bond. The only right he has in the premises, is to require that the sureties shall justify as required by the statute. The plaintiff had no right to say that the bond should be a joint and several obligation, nor had the court the right to say so. The language of the statute is, that 'the party applying therefor shall execute a bond with one or more sufficient sureties.' When the statute requires a bond to be given, and does not employ words of severalty, the fair if not the necessary intendment is that a joint obligation in form is intended; but it does not follow in such case that the statute intends or contemplates that the accident of the death of the sureties shall deprive the obligees of the security which the bond was intended to afford.

The intention of the statute doubtless here was, that the property of the principal and of the surety should stand charged with the liability assumed in favor of the plaintiffs, and we think that so the statute should be construed.

Mr. F. Kernan, contra, with whom were Mr. T. J. Glover, for the executors of Lafarge, and Mr. F. H. Dykers, for Lahens.

Mr. Justice DAVIS delivered the opinion of the court.

NotesEdit

^*  9 Howard, 90; S.C.., on the circuit, under the name of United States v. Archer's Executors, 1 Wallace, Jr., 173.

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).