Michigan Insurance Bank v. Eldred (143 U.S. 293)

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

143 U.S. 293

Michigan Insurance Bank  v.  Eldred

This was an action by the Michigan Insurance Bank, a corporation created and organized under the laws of the state of Michigan, against a citizen of Wisconsin. upon a judgment recovered by the plaintiff against him on May 13, 1862, in an inferior court of Michigan, for the sum of $4,211.56. In the present action the writ was dated May 11, 1872, and appeared by the marshal's return thereon to have been served on June 3, 1882. The defendant originally pleaded the statute of limitations of 10 years, and on that issue obtained a verdict, the judgment on which was reversed by this court at October term, 1888, because evidence introduced by the plaintiff that within the 10 years the summons had been delivered to the marshal for service had not been properly submitted to the jury. 130 U.S. 693, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 690.

The defendant thereupon obtained leave from the circuit court to amend his answer by adding, as a distinct defense, the following: 'Said defendant denies, upon information and belief, that at the time of the commencement of this action the said plaintiff was, or is now, a corporation created or organized under the laws of the state of Michigan, or under the laws of any other state, territory, or government; and said defendant further specifically denies, upon information and belief, that said plaintiff at the time of the commencement of this action was, or at any time since then has been, or is now, a corporation.'

On June 24, 1891, the case came on again for trial before the circuit judge, when the plaintiff put in evidence its articles of incorporation under the laws of Michigan, and the record of the judgment sued on, and rested its case.

To support the defense of the statute of limitations, the defendant put in evidence the writ and the officer's return.

In support of the other defense, the defendant offered in evidence duly-certified copies of the following documents, all in accordance with the national banking act of June 3, 1864, c. 106: (1) Articles of association, dated June 26, 1865, executed by the plaintiff's directors, by authority of two-thirds of its stockholders, changing and converting it into a national bank, by the name of the 'National Insurance Bank of Detroit.' (2) The organization certificate, of the same date, executed by the plaintiff's directors, under the same authority. (3) Instruments signed by such stockholders, conferring such authority. (4) A certificate, dated July 13, 1865, of the comptroller of the currency, that the association had complied with the provisions of law, and was authorized to commence business. (5) A certificate of liquidation, made by the cashier of the association to the comptroller of the currency, dated March 1, 1869.

The plaintiff objected to the admission of these documents, 'because, if received in evidence, they do not show that the plaintiff does not exist as a corporation; they simply show the organization of a corporation called the 'National Insurance Bank of Detroit;" and also 'because the incorporation of the plaintiff is not affirmatively and specifically denied in the answer, but denied on information and belief.' The objections were overruled, and the documents admitted in evidence, and the plaintiff excepted to the ruling.

The defendant then rested, and the plaintiff moved 'that all of the defendant's evidence be stricken out, for the reason, if it be assumed to be correct, it has not made out any case.' The judge said: 'I think on the record as it now stands-on the proof as it now stands-the Michigan Insurance Bank became defunct and ceased to exist in 1865, when the national bank was organized,'-and refused to grant the motion, and the plaintiff excepted to the refusal.

The subsequent part of the bill of exceptions contained no further exception of the plaintiff, but consisted (except the formal conclusion) of a stenographer's notes of a desultory conversation between the presiding judge and the plaintiff's counsel upon the question whether the plaintiff should introduce evidence, which he said he had, to show that the statute of limitations had not run, and ending as follows:

The judge said, 'Even if the right of action was not barred, you cannot recover.' The plaintiff's counsel repeated that the defendant had offered in evidence the writ and the officer's return to prove that the action was barred by the statute of limitations, and that the plaintiff had evidence that the summons was placed in the marshal's hands for service within 10 years after the cause of action accrued, but there would be no use in putting in that evidence if, regardless of it, the court would charge the jury to bring in a verdict for the defendant. Thereupon the judge said, 'I think I will, ' and instructed the jury to return a verdict for the defendant, and they did so.

The bill of exceptions was signed by the judge on June 24, and filed on June 25, 1891, before the adjournment of January term, 1891. This writ of error was sued out on June 25, and was entered in this court on July 22, 1891.

At the present term of this court the case was advanced for hearing, on motion of the defendant in error, under rule 26, clause 4, (3 Sup. Ct. Rep. xv.,) because it had been once adjudged by this court on the merits.

On January 26, 1892, the plaintiff in error moved for a writ of certiorari to bring up the record of the following proceeding at January term, 1892, of the circuit court,

On January 16th, the circuit judge, on the application of the plaintiff's attorneys, and upon its appearing to his satisfaction, 'from the stenographer's report of the testimony and trial, that the plaintiff omitted, in the bill of exceptions heretofore signed,' two exceptions which were taken at the trial, ordered, against the objection and exception of the defendant, that the original bill of exceptions be amended by inserting, after the judge's words, 'I think I will, ' the words, 'to which ruling the plaintiff duly excepted;' and, after the instruction to return a verdict for the defendant, the words 'to which the plaintiff duly excepted.' On January 18th, after the bill of exceptions had been amended accordingly, the judge signed it nunc pro tunc as of June 24, 1891, and ordered it to be filed [297]

nunc pro tunc as of June 25, 1891, being the days when the original bill of exceptions was signed and filed.

By direction of this court, the question whether the writ of certiorari prayed for should issue was argued with the merits of the case.

Mr. Justice BREWER, dissenting.

Geo. P. Miller, for plaintiff in error.

Alfred L. Cary and F. C. Winkler, for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice GRAY, after stating the facts as above, delivered the opinion of the court.


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).