101 U.S. 135 (1879), Wood v. Carpenter

Citation:101 U.S. 135, 25 L.Ed. 807
Case Date:December 22, 1879
Court:United States Supreme Court

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101 U.S. 135 (1879)

25 L.Ed. 807




United States Supreme Court.

December 22, 1879

ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Indiana.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.


Mr. Andrew L. Robinson and Mr. Asa Iglehart for the plaintiff in error.

Mr. Charles Denby and Mr. J. M. Shackelford for the defendant in error.


MR. JUSTICE SWAYNE delivered the opinion of the court.

This action was brought Oct. 21, 1872. The amended complaint or declaration makes the following case: William L.

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Wood, the plaintiff, recovered judgments in the Vanderburg Circuit Court against Willard Carpenter upon sundry promissory notes and bills of exchange. The first judgment bore date on the 16th of May, 1860, and the last on the 22d of August in that year. In the aggregate they amounted to the sum of $8,557.079 At the dates of the notes and bills the defendant was the owner of real and personal estate of the value of $500,000. For the purpose of defrauding the plaintiff and others by depreciating the value of their claims against him, and of thereby inducing them to sell the claims to him for less than their face, the defendant, in the year 1858, entered into a fraudulent conspiracy with his brother, Alvin B. Carpenter, and others to the plaintiff unknown, to incumber his real estate and hide away the title so that the property should not be sold to pay his debts, but in the end inure to his benefit. In pursuance of this scheme he confessed sundry fraudulent judgments for large sums, and afterwards made a fraudulent assignment of all his property to William H. Walker and William D. Allis, and thereafter procured the title to all his real and personal estate to be vested in his brother, Alvin, and others, who held the property in secret trust for the defendant. In this way the title was so concealed that the plaintiff was prevented from levying executions issued upon his judgments. On the 14th of January, 1862, the plaintiff, in order to compel the defendant to pay his judgments, caused him to be arrested by the sheriff, in Massachusetts, upon final process. The defendant was taken before a master in chancery, and afterwards, before the master, took the insolvent debtor's oath according to the law of that State, and was thereupon discharged. Upon that occasion he falsely deposed and swore that he was not possessed of pecuniary means to the extent of twenty dollars, and that he had in good faith assigned all his property for the benefit of his creditors. From that time forward the defendant falsely pretended to the plaintiff and his other creditors that he was poor, and wholly unable to pay his debts, or any part of them. Having thus put his property beyond the reach of process upon the plaintiff's judgments, and procured his discharge from custody in Massachusetts, and led the plaintiff to believe he had no property out of which the judgments

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could be collected, the defendant afterwards, on the 1st of January, 1864, in further pursuance of the conspiracy, pretended and represented that his son-in-law, one D. C. Keller, would purchase the judgments with his own means, and so procured the plaintiff, who acted upon the belief of the truth of the representations and of the perjured statement of the defendant, to assign the judgments to Keller for fifty per cent of their principal and interest, amounting to $5,104.52, whereas, in fact, the judgments were bought by Keller with money furnished by the defendant, and they were held in trust by Keller for the defendant until June 1, 1873, when Keller, at the instance of the defendant, caused satisfaction to be entered. Before and since the rendition of the judgments the defendant owned property worth exceeding $200,000. The title was held in secret trust for him by his brother Alvin and others, and was fraudulently concealed from the plaintiff until long after the assignment of the judgments. Within twelve months past the property was all reconveyed to the defendant, and he holds it by an indefeasible title. The plaintiff had no knowledge of the ownership of the property by the defendant, nor of the secret trust, nor of the falsity of his representations, as alleged, until during the year 1872.

The defendant filed an answer consisting of three paragraphs:----

1. He denied all the allegations of the petition.

2. He alleged that the causes of action set forth in the petition did not accrue within six years.

3. He averred that he was not guilty of any of the grievances set forth in the complaint at any time within six years before the commencement of the action.

The plaintiff's reply to the second and third paragraphs averred as follows:----

The defendant concealed the facts, that the judgments confessed in favor of Chapman and others were fraudulent; that Alvin C. Carpenter held the said property, real and personal, in trust for the defendant; that the defendant had committed perjury before the master in Massachusetts; that Keller had bought the judgments with the defendant's money, and for the defendant's use and benefit; that the defendant was in

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fact the owner of the property, and that it was held by his brother and others in secret trust for him; and that his representations as to his insolvency were false and fraudulent.

It was averred further, that the concealment was effected by the defendant by means of fraud, perjury, and the other wicked devices set forth and described in the plaintiff's complaint herein; and that the plaintiff had no knowledge of the facts so concealed by the defendant until the year 1872, and a few weeks only before the commencement of this suit.

The defendant demurred to the last two paragraphs of the reply. The demurrer was sustained. The plaintiff not asking leave to amend, the court gave judgment against him, and he thereupon sued out this writ of error.

The only question presented for our consideration is whether the demurrer was properly sustained. The Statute of Limitations relied upon by the defendant declares:----

'The following actions shall be commenced within six years after the cause of action has accrued, and not afterwards.' 2 Rev. Stat. of 1876, p. 121. '. . . If any person liable to an action shall conceal the fact from the person entitled thereto, the action may be commenced at any time within the period of limitation after the discovery of the cause of action.' Id. 128, sect. 219. Both these provisions apply to actions for fraud. Musselman v. Kent and Others, 33 Ind. 453; Cravens v. Duncan, 55 id. 347. The statute begins to run when the fraud is perpetrated. Wynne et al. v. Cornelison et al., 52 id. 312.

In the case in hand, the specific wrong complained of, and the gravamen of the action, is the transfer of the judgments against Carpenter for the consideration of fifty cents on the dollar of principal and interest, when it is averred they were good for the entire amount, and which transfer, it is alleged, was brought about by the...

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