104 U.S. 303 (1881), Libby v. Hopkins

Citation:104 U.S. 303, 26 L.Ed. 769
Party Name:LIBBY v. HOPKINS.
Case Date:December 19, 1881
Court:United States Supreme Court

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104 U.S. 303 (1881)

26 L.Ed. 769




United States Supreme Court.

December 19, 1881


ERROR to the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio.

The suit was brought in the Superior Court of Cincinnati by A. T. Stewart & Co., of which firm the plaintiffs in error are the survivors, against Lewis C. Hopkins and wife, and Isaac M. Jordan, trustee in bankruptcy of Hopkins.

It appears from the record that A. T. Stewart & Co., merchants, of the city of New York, loaned, June 6, 1866, Hopkins, a merchant of Cincinnati, Ohio, $100,000, and took his promissory note of that date therefor, payable on demand with interest from date, to secure the payment of which he executed and delivered to them several mortgages on real estate in Cincinnati and its vicinity. Both before and after that date he bought of them large quantities of goods, and as a matter of convenience kept with them two accounts,--one a cash and the other a merchandise account. They were his bankers. All his remittances were sent to them and credited to him in the cash account. By drafts thereon he paid his debts for merchandise to them and other New York merchants, and in order to replenish it he borrowed the $100,000 abovementioned, and it was carried to his credit in that account. On May 4, 1867, he paid on his note $25,000. On Nov. 12, 1867, he remitted to Stewart & Co. §10,000, on Dec. 27, 1867, §17,000, on the 28th of the same month, $10,000, and on the 30th, $48,025. He directed these remittances to be applied to the payment of his note, and to be credited thereon. It is now no longer disputed that the first three of these remittances were so applied. The last two, with the interest thereon, constitute the sum now in controversy.

On Jan. 1, 1868, Hopkins suspended business, insolvent. At that time he owed A. T. Stewart & Co. $231,515 on account, and unsecured. His liabilities to others amounted to more than $500,000. A petition in bankruptcy was filed against him February 29. He was adjudicated a bankrupt March 30. On April 30 Jordan was appointed trustee.

As to the foregoing facts there is no dispute.

In August, 1868, on what day the record does not show, Stewart & Co. commenced this suit for the foreclosure of the mortgages, claiming as due the full amount of the note, less the payment of $25,000.

The answer, besides other defences not pertinent to any contention now raised, averred that Hopkins had paid on the note, not only the said sum of $25,000, but also the remittances above mentioned, making the total amount paid thereon $110,025; and, after alleging that said payments were made in fraud of the Bankrupt Act, demanded, by way of counterclaim, a judgment against Stewart & Co. therefor.

The reply admitted that Hopkins requested Stewart & Co. to credit the remittances on his mortgage debt, and averred that they were held subject to his order, and continued to be so held, up to the time when the rights of Jordan, trustee, attached, subject to such law of set-off as is provided in the Bankrupt Act. It nowhere appeared in the pleadings that Hopkins was indebted to the plaintiffs on any unsecured claim, or in any other way, except upon the note for $100,000. No unsecured debt of Hopkins was pleaded as a set-off or otherwise.

The Superior Court found that the mortgages were valid, and the first lien on the premises therein described, and that there was due thereon, including interest, the sum of $75,957.06. It rendered a final decree that unless that sum with interest be paid within one hundred and eighty days therefrom to Stewart & Co., the mortgaged premises should be sold.

The court further found that when Hopkins made the last two remittances, of $10,000 and $48,025, respectively, it was with the intent and the express instruction in writing to Stewart & Co. to apply them in discharging the mortgage claim; that Stewart & Co. refused to do so, but assumed, without his authority or consent, to apply and did apply them to his credit on the general account against him for merchandise; that Stewart & Co. had no right to make such application; and that the remittances remained in their hands as his moneys from the several days of their payment until Feb. 29, 1868, when the title of Jordan as trustee attached thereto. It also found that the said two several sums were not subject to any claim of set-off or cross-demand, or of mutual debts or credits, on the part of Stewart & Co., under sect. 20 of the Bankrupt Act, or otherwise.

The court, therefore, rendered a decree in favor of Jordan, trustee, against Stewart & Co. for $58,025, the aggregate of the last two remittances, with interest, amounting in all to $75,981.36.

The case was carried, by the petition in error of Stewart & Co., and the cross-petition in error of Jordan, trustee, to the Supreme Court of Ohio, by which the decree of the Superior Court was affirmed.

Stewart & Co. thereupon brought the case here by writ of error. Some of the members of the firm have died, and Libby and another are its surviving members.


Mr. Aaron F. Perry for the plaintiffs in error.

Mr. Jackson A. Jordan and Mr. Isaac Dayton, contra.

MR. JUSTICE WOODS, after stating the facts, delivered the opinion of the court.

The only question to which our attention is directed by the plaintiffs is that of set-off under the twentieth section of the act of March 2, 1867, c. 176 (14 Stat. 517), which is as follows: 'In all cases of mutual debts or mutual credits

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between the parties, the account between them shall be stated, and one debt set off against the other, and the balance only shall be...

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