Open main menu


Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

82 U.S. 549

Riggin  v.  Magwire

ERROR to the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri.

Magwire sued Riggin in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri, to recover damages for a breach of covenant. The defendant pleaded a discharge under the Bankrupt Act of 1841, obtained in June, 1843, but his plea was disallowed, both by the lower court and by the Supreme Court of Missouri on appeal. He, therefore, brought the case here by writ of error.

The case was this:

On the 2d of December, 1839, Riggin conveyed a certain tract of land near St. Louis to one Ellis, in fee. The operative words of the conveyance were 'grant, bargain, sell,' &c., which words in Missouri create a covenant that the grantor has an indefeasible estate in fee. [1] The fact was that, prior to the execution of this deed, the property had belonged to one Martin Thomas, whose wife had never relinquished her right to dower in it. But Thomas was then living, and did not die until 1848, several years after the alleged discharge of Riggin as a bankrupt. The property afterwards, by regular devolution of title, came into possession of Magwire, who sold it in lots to various persons. In 1868 these persons were sued by Mrs. Thomas, widow of Martin Thomas, for the value of her dower, and were obliged to pay it, and the plaintiff was obliged to refund them the amount. He, therefore, brought this suit against Riggin for damages under his implied covenant of indefeasible seizin.

The question was, whether Riggin was discharged from this demand by his decree of discharge in bankruptcy in 1843? Whether he was or not depended on the question whether the claim could have been proved in that proceeding. The 5th section of the Bankrupt Act of 1841 [2] declares as follows:

'All creditors whose debts are not due and payable until a future day, all annuitants, holders of bottomry and respondentia bonds, holders of policies of insurance, sureties, indorsers, bail, or other persons having uncertain or contingent demands against such bankrupt, shall be permitted to come in and prove such debts and claims under the act, and shall have a right, when these debts or claims become a absolute, to have the same allowed them; and such annuitants and holders of debts payable in future may have the present value thereof ascertained under the direction of such court, and allowed them accordingly, as debts in praesenti.'


Messrs. Glover and Shepley, for the plaintiff in error:


The plain words of the fifth section include all 'uncertain and contingent demands,' i. e., 'uncertain and contingent demands' of every kind and character. The claim for the wife's dower was undoubtedly a valid claim, and a claim always subsisting; and because it was an uncertain and contingent claim it was provable under this fifth section.

The question now before the court was considered in effect by the Supreme Court of New York in Jemison v. Blowers, [3] where a discharge was pleaded against a suit brought upon the covenant for quiet enjoyment, and after a careful examination of the act of 1841 the court came to the conclusion that the discharge was a bar to the action. Shelton v. Pease, in the Supreme Court of Missouri, [4] is to a similar effect.

Messrs. Blair and Dick, contra.

Mr. Justice BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.

NotesEdit

^1  Revised Statutes of 1855, c. 32, § 14; Magwire v. Riggin, 44 Missouri, 512.

^2  5 Stat. at Large, 445.

^3  5 Barbour, 686.

^4  10 Missouri, 475.

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).