Kelly v. Crawford

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Kelly v. Crawford by Stephen Johnson Field
Syllabus
Court Documents
Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

72 U.S. 785

KELLY  v.  CRAWFORD

On error to the Circuit Court for the Northern District of Illinois; the case was thus:

Crawford & Co., in 1860, were coal dealers in Cleveland, and at the same time Kelly & Maher were coal dealers in Chicago. On the 4th August Kelly made a contract with Crawford & Co., the purport of which was, that Crawford & Co. were to supply Kelly & Co. with coal; that the coal was to be furnished at Cleveland; that Kelly & Co. were to advance the freight and insurance; that upon its arrival here they were to dock and sell it, to guarantee the payment of all sales. The contract prescribed the manner in which the proceeds of the sales were to be divided between the parties, and provided that the coal was to remain the property of Crawford & Co.

On the 13th of September, 1861, there being a large sum of money due Crawford & Co. for coal furnished under the contract, an agreement was made, in substance thus:

'Know all men, &c., that whereas Kelly & Co. are indebted to Crawford & Co. upon joint account, the exact amount to be ascertained from the books of Kelly & Co. by one G. H. Quigg, under the supervision of the parties to this agreement (the amount so found to be due and owing to be final). In consideration of such indebtedness, &c., the said Kelly & Co. hereby assign to the said Crawford & Co. all the accounts hereunto attached, and marked 'Exhibit A,' together with two wheelbarrow scales [and other chattels personal, specified], and all other accounts due and owing to said Kelly & Co. upon their coal books, except the accounts now enjoined in chancery. Further: that Crawford & Co. are to put the said accounts into speedy collection; and after paying the expenses of collecting, the balance shall be applied to the extinguishment of the debt of said Kelly & Co. to Crawford & Co., as ascertained by the aforesaid G. H. Quigg. It being distinctly understood that the said Quigg is to ascertain the amount due, which the parties hereto now agree is to be the actual amount. Should there be any balance left after collecting the sums herein referred to, the said Crawford & Co. agree to pay the same over to Kelly & Co.; and should the said sum of accounts, and the personal property herein referred to, be insufficient to pay the sum found (hereafter) to be due to Crawford & Co., then Kelly & Co. agree to pay the balance remaining unpaid to Crawford & Co.'

No 'exhibit' of any kind had been annexed to this contract at the date of its execution, nor was ever afterward annexed.

Quigg, in September, 1861, along with Mahel, Crawford & Co. supervising what he did, proceeded to determine from the books of Kelly & Co. the amount due Crawford & Co. In doing this he corrected errors and oversights, and made some new entries, and on the 16th of June, 1862, he wrote up a balance of the accounts as they stood on the books at that time; including in it all the accounts that had been entered upon the books by him subsequent to the agreement. Acting thus, he reported, in June, 1862, the sum due to be $5474.

Kelly & Co. having failed to pay the amount thus found, Crawford & Co. brought assumpsit in the court below against them.

The declaration consisted of one special count on the agreement, and the award of Mr. Quigg, thereunder. It set forth that the accounts had been put into collection, and that there was a deficit. The common counts were added.

To this declaration Maher pleaded:

1st. General issue.

2d. That he did not execute the agreement set out in first count of the declaration.

3d. That the agreement so set out was executed by Kelly, in the name of Kelly & Co., without his knowledge or consent, and that long before the date thereof, the firm of Kelly & Co., of which he had been a member, was dissolved.

On the trial, the contract between the parties of September 13th, 1861, was admitted by the court in evidence, 'subject to the proof to be given thereafter,' without the exhibit to which it refers, against two objections of the defendants-1st, that it was incomplete without the exhibit; 2d, that it was invalid, because executed by one of the firm of Kelly & Co., after its dissolution.

Quigg was examined as a witness in the case, and exhibited the books, and testified that the entries made by him, and the balance the books showed, were accurate.


Mr. D. C. Nichols, for Kelly & Co., plaintiffs in error:


1. The contract without the schedule was incomplete-a contract with its most important part omitted-and did not tend to show the case between the parties. Their rights, under the contract, depended upon the accounts assigned. The accounts were to be put into speedy collection. The first count of the plaintiffs' declaration alleges that this was done. If more was collected than Quigg should award, the plaintiffs were to pay the balance to the defendants below; if less, the defendants below were to make up the deficiency. The contract without the schedule had no certain meaning. [1] The absence of the schedule made a patent ambiguity which cannot be supplied by parol evidence. [2]

If this contract could have been rendered competent by extrinsic evidence, that evidence should have been first introduced, before the contract was received in evidence. [3]

2. By the contract of September 13th, 1861, Quigg was to determine the balance due the plaintiffs from the defendants as shown by the books at the time they were submitted to him. Instead of so finding the balance he changed the books; introduced new and original matter in them, and in making up the balance-sheet included this matter. In doing this he exceeded the submission.

Now, an award not in pursuance of the submission, or based upon matters not submitted, is void. [4]


Mr. Merrick, contra:


The court is now asked to reverse this judgment, not because of any injustice done the defendants, or that the judgment and finding of the jury are not fully supported by the pleadings and proofs in the case, or that the jury were in anywise misled by the direction of the court, or would not be justifiable in coming to the same conclusion under any aspect of the case consistent with the facts, or that substantial justice has not been done to the defendant; nothing of the kind is assigned for error. On the contrary, there being no errors assigned in this court, the plaintiffs in error substantially admit that the defendants in error made out their case. The allegation is that the court erred technically in permitting the defendants in error to introduce and read in evidence to the jury, the contract of September 13th, 1861, and the books of Kelly & Co. There is really nothing else. There was no substantial error in what was done, and none even in a technical view. There was no dispute about anything. Quigg was not an arbitrator; but was a mere accountant, fixed on to find the sum due on the books of Kelly & Co.

Mr. Justice FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.

Notes[edit]

^1  Dennis v. Barber, 6 Sergeant & Rawle, 425; Sloan v. Ault, 8 Clark (Iowa), 229; Shields v. Henry, 31 Alabama, 53; Miller v. Travers et al., 8 Bingham, 244 (21 English Common Law, 524); Jackson v. Parkhurst, 4 Wendell, 369.

^2  Gilson et al. v. Gilson, 16 Vermont, 468.

^3  Haswell v. Bussing, 10 Johnson, 128; Penfield v. Carpender, 13 Id. 350; Irvine v. Cook, 15 Id. 239.

^4  Pope v. Brett, 3 Williams's Saunders, 292; Harvey v. Aston, Willes, 92; George v. Lousley, 8 East, 13; Leggo v. Young, 81 English Common Law, 625; Shearer v. Handy, 22 Pickering, 417.

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).