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Young v. Godbe/Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

82 U.S. 562

Young  v.  Godbe

The testimony of Armstrong, the bookkeeper of Kimball & Lawrence, was objected to by the defendant for the reason that it was not in rebuttal, and therefore illegal, but the court overruled the objection and permitted the testimony to go to the jury for what it was worth.

We are not prepared to say that Godbe could not rebut the case made by Young by showing that the affairs of the company were so connected with the church that, as one of the witnesses said, 'he did not know the difference between them.' But the evidence on this subject should not have been the declaration by one person of what another said. The fact that Young had settled the account of Kimball & Lawrence in the way he did was proper evidence to go to the jury, if Lawrence had testified to it, but Armstrong's statement of what Lawrence told him was pure hearsay. Besides, the court on its own motion enlarged the scope of the evidence by directing the jury to consider it for what it was worth. This direction enabled the jury to take a wider range of the subject than they otherwise would, and naturally inclined them to consider the evidence as fixing the right of the plaintiff to recover from the defendant in the capacity in which he was sued.

On account of the error in admitting the testimony of Armstrong, and in indicating the effect which the jury should give to it, the judgment will have to be reversed.

But as the case goes back for a new trial, it is proper to say a word upon the subject of interest, which seems more than anything else to be the chief point of difference between the parties. We can see no objection to the charge of the court on this subject. If a debt ought to be paid at a particular time, and is not, owing to the default of the debtor, the creditor is entitled to interest from that time by way of compensation for the delay in payment. And if the account be stated, as the evidence went to show was the case here, interest begins to run at once. [*]

It is said there is no law in the Territory of Utah prescribing a rate of interest in transactions like the one in controversy in this suit, and that, therefore, no interest can be recovered. But this result does not follow. If there is no statute on the subject, interest will be allowed by way of damages for unreasonably withholding payment of an overdue account. The rate must be reasonable, and conform to the custom which obtains in the community in dealings of this character.



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).