Williams v. Heard
This was an action for money had and received, brought in the supreme judicial court of the commonwealth of Massachusetts for the county of Suffolk by John Heard, Augustine Heard, and Albert F. Heard against their assignees in bankruptcy, to recover the amount of an award made by the court of commissioners of Alabama claims, under the act of congress approved June 5, 1882, (22 St. 98,) on account of war premiums of insurance paid by the pain tiffs during the war of the Rebellion, which award had been paid to the assignees by the United States. The case was entered in the full court, where it was tried upon the following agreed statement of facts: 'The plaintiffs, citizens of the United States, were engaged between April 13, 1861, and April 9, 1865, as partners under the firm name of Augustine Heard and Company, in the business of buying and shipping steamers for China, receiving merchandise from China, and selling the same, and insuring merchandise and vessels. During that period the plaintiffs bore true allegiance to the government of the United States, and, after the sailing of the first Confederate cruiser they made, in the course of their business, certain enhanced payments of insurance, otherwise called payments of premiums for war risks or war premiums, on merchandise and vessels, to an amount exceeding the sum awarded on their account by the court of commissioners of Alabama claims, as hereinafter set forth. On May 31, 1865, the said firm of Augustine Heard and Company was dissolved by the agreement of the members thereof. On August 5, 1875, the plaintiffs were severally adjudicated bankrupts in the United States district court for the district of Massachusetts. On September 11, 1875, assignments in bankruptcy in the usual form were made to the defendants, and on July 20, 1877, the plaintiffs received their discharge in bankruptcy. The said firm and each of the plaintiffs individually were solvent when said firm was dissolved, and all the debts owed by the plaintiffs at the time of their said adjudication in bankruptcy were incurred after said dissolution. The estate of said bankrupts received by the defendants hitherto has been insufficient to pay in full the debts of the bankrupts. In December, 1886, an award was made by the court of commissioners of Alabama claims established under the act of congress approved June 5, 1882, to the defendants as assignees in bankruptcy of the plaintiffs in proceedings in said court to which the plaintiffs in his action were parties, on account of the said payments of war premiums by the plaintiffs, and was in part paid to the defendants by the United States. Of the sum so awarded and paid there remains in the hands of the defendants, after paying the reasonable expenses of prosecuting the claim before said court of commissioners and collecting the award, the sum of thirteen thousand six hundred and twelve and 85-100 ($13,612.85) dollars. The amount of the Geneva award remaining unappropriated was insufficient to pay the war premium awards in full. The treaty of Washington, between the United States and Great Britain, promulgated July 4, 1871; the decisions rendered by the tribunal of arbitration at Geneva, and the final decision and award made by said tribunal on September 18, 1872; the acts of congress of june 23, 1874, and june 5, 1882, re-spectively, creating and re-establising the court of commiSsioners of alabama claims; the several acts of congress relating to the said courts and the payment of their awards,-are to be treated as facts in this case, and may be referred to at the argument. No controversy or question exists between the parties as to the proportions in which the several plaintiffs are entitled, if at all, to the sum recovered, or as to the distribution of the same; and it is agreed that, if upon the foregoing facts the plaintiffs are entitled to recover, judgment is to be entered for them and the case is to stand for the assessment of damages; otherwise judgment for the defendants. It is further agreed that in either event the expenses of this action and reasonable counsel fees to each party may be paid out of the fund in the defendants' hands.' There was a judgment for the plaintiffs, two of the judges dissenting, (146 Mass. 545, 16 N. E. Rep. 437,) the rescript being entered April 25, 1888. By agreement damages were assessed at $10,000, and in accordance therewith judgment for that amount was entered on the 5th of June, 188. To review that judgment this writ of error was prosecuted. One of the defendants having died and the other having resigned his trust, the present plaintiff in error was appointed assignee, and he thereafter regularly entered his appearance in the case.
Moses Williams and Chas. A. Williams, for plaintiff in error.
H. W. Putnam, for defendants in error.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 531-535 intentionally omitted]
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