165 U.S. 654 (1897), 193, Walker v. Brown

Docket Nº:No. 193
Citation:165 U.S. 654, 17 S.Ct. 453, 41 L.Ed. 865
Party Name:Walker v. Brown
Case Date:March 01, 1897
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 654

165 U.S. 654 (1897)

17 S.Ct. 453, 41 L.Ed. 865




No. 193

United States Supreme Court

March 1, 1897

Submitted January 13, 1896




Every express executory agreement in writing whereby the contracting party sufficiently indicates an intention to make some particular property, real or personal or fund, therein described or identified a security for a debt or other obligation, or whereby the party promises to convey or assign or transfer the property as security, creates an equitable lien upon the property so indicated which is enforceable against the property in the hands not only of the original contractor, but of his heirs, administrators, executors, voluntary assignees, and purchasers or encumbrancers with notice.

On the facts stated in the opinion of the Court, which can with difficulty be condensed without omitting something which might be deemed essential, and applying to those facts the principle of law stated in the preceding paragraph, held that Walker & Company had an equitable lien upon the bonds of Brown pledged to the Union National Bank, and that those bonds had been returned to Brown under such circumstances as to continue the lien against them in the hands of Mrs. Brown, to whom they had been given by him.

To dedicate property to a particular purpose to provide that a specified creditor, and that creditor alone, shall be authorized to seek payment from it or its value, is to create an equitable lien upon it.

For reasons stated in the opinion, interest is to be computed at the rate of six percent, not at the rate of ten percent.

Page 655

The case is stated in the opinion.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

The complainants, who are appellants here, all citizens of the State of Illinois, members of the firm of J. H. Walker & Company, established in the City of Chicago, filed their bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Iowa, Central Division, against Anna L. Brown, widow of Talmadge E. Brown, as administratrix of her deceased husband's estate, and against Willis S. Brown and Edward L. Marsh, co-administrators, all of whom were alleged to be citizens of the State of Iowa, and to have been duly appointed as aforesaid by the District Court of Polk County, Iowa.

Omitting reference to matters which have become irrelevant to the controversy in its final aspect, the bill substantially averred that Talmadge E. Brown, being desirous of assisting an Iowa corporation known as the Lloyd Mercantile Company, delivered to said company $15,000 in bonds of the City of Memphis, worth their face value; that between May and July, 1889, Walker & Company sold to the Lloyd Mercantile Company merchandise to a considerable amount, on the price of which there remained due on the 1st of August, 1889, $1,524.78; that, on or about that date, the corporation was dissolved, and a firm composed of J. Collins Lloyd and Copeley Lloyd was formed under the name of J. C. Lloyd & Company for the purpose of continuing the business of the mercantile company, the new business to be carried on at Ellensburg, State of Washington, and that the firm assumed the debts and [17 S.Ct. 454] liabilities of the Lloyd Mercantile Company. It was further alleged that the firm just formed proposed to buy from Walker & Company a considerable amount of merchandise on credit, but that Walker &

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Company declined to give this asked-for credit unless Brown would agree that the fifteen thousand of Memphis bonds, lent by him to the Lloyd Mercantile Company should not be withheld by Brown from the assets of the new firm, or be returned to Brown, as long as there remained a debt due to Walker & Company by Lloyd & Company on account of the purchase of goods; that thereupon Brown entered into a written agreement to the effect stated, and that, on the faith of this written agreement, the firm of Walker & Company had not pressed the collection of the old debt, and had sold Lloyd & Company merchandise on credit to the value of $12,391.61, which, added to the sum previously due and assumed by Lloyd & Company, made the debt due to Walker & Company $13,916.39, the whole of which sum the bill averred to be due at the time of the commencement of the suit. The bill charged that the intent of the parties and the legal result of the agreement made by Brown were to cause the fifteen thousand in Memphis bonds or their value to become a security for this debt of Walker & Company, and that thereby there was created an equitable lien on the bonds to the amount of the debt in favor of Walker & Company.

It was further alleged that on the 25th day of December, 1889, the firm of Lloyd & Company became wholly insolvent, and so remained up to the time of the filing of the bill; that, after the making of the agreement by Brown, in order to escape the effect of the contract, Brown induced Lloyd & Company to return to him (Brown) the Memphis bonds, and that from the time of such return, neither the said bonds nor the value thereof formed part of the assets of Lloyd & Company; that Walker & Company did not know of the return of the bonds until after the credit had been extended to Lloyd & Company. It was alleged that complainants did not know the true condition of the estate of Brown, or whether the Memphis bonds were yet among its assets, and that a discovery and accounting was necessary in order to enable them to reach the property upon which the lien was asserted to exist or the proceeds thereof in the hands of the administrators.

The relief prayed was that if, on discovery, it be found that

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the Memphis bonds, or any portion thereof, were a part of the assets of the estate of Brown, an equitable lien be recognized thereon and the bonds be ordered to be sold, and the proceeds applied, as far as necessary, to the payment of the debt due by Lloyd & Company to the complainants; that if the Memphis bonds had been sold or exchanged by Brown for other properties which could be traced to the hands of the administrators, a like lien might be adjudged thereon; that if the bonds, or any part thereof, did not form a part of the estate of Brown in the hands of his administrators, the complainants might be adjudged to be creditors of the estate for the amount of the value of the bonds to the extent necessary to pay their debt, and that the administrators be ordered to pay this sum in due course of administration, and be ordered to render, under the supervision of the court, an account of all properties received by them as administrators, and of all their acts and doings as such. There was a prayer for an injunction restraining the disposing or incumbering of the Memphis bonds referred to, or the proceeds thereof, in the hands of the administrators. In addition to this claim, there was an averment as to a debt due by Brown's estate for $560.14, asserted to have been expended in an endeavor to collect the debt due by Lloyd & Company, and for which it was alleged Brown had agreed to be responsible.

The answer, insofar as it relates to the matters above stated, averred that about February, 1889, the Lloyd Mercantile Company, being in need of money, induced Brown, the deceased, to loan fifteen one thousand dollar bonds of the City of Memphis, to be used as collateral security for a loan which the company was then about to make; that the company received the bonds and used them by pledging them to secure the debt -- all of which facts were known to the complainants; that this transaction with the company was the only one the deceased had with it on the subject of the Memphis bonds. The answer specifically denied that the bonds of the City of Memphis thus loaned to the mercantile company were at any time an asset of said company, and also expressly denied that the bonds were ever loaned to the mercantile company or

Page 658

to Lloyd & Company, its successor, for any other than the express purpose above stated -- that is, to be used as collateral back of the particular loan referred to. Denying all knowledge of the existence of the alleged debt in favor of Walker & Company, it was averred that no other contract or agreement on the subject of the bonds was made by Brown with Walker & Company except such contract as might result from the terms of a letter on the subject of the Memphis bonds, dated Chicago, December 21, 1889, written by Brown to Walker & Company, which letter was set out in the answer.

After denying that the credit given to Walker & Company was extended to Lloyd & Company on the faith of the bonds, and after charging that the bonds were at the time of the writing of the letter held as collateral back of a loan of the Union National Bank of Chicago, and that no equitable lien thereon resulted from the writing of the letter by Brown, the answer in addition averred that after the writing of the letter, to-wit, some time during the month of November, 1889, the bank, in whose hands the Memphis bonds of Brown had been deposited as collateral for Lloyd & Company's debt, pressed for payment of the principal obligation and threatened in default to sell the bonds; that Brown thereupon, in order to prevent the sale of his bonds, paid the debt with his own funds and withdrew the bonds, and that thus he had been discharged of his obligations under the terms of the letter referred [17 S.Ct. 455] to, if any obligations thereby arose; that no part of the money which made this payment was that of Lloyd & Company or was taken from the assets of the firm, but the payment was made wholly and exclusively with the money of Brown in order to prevent the sale of his bonds. It was also charged in the answer that if any debt existed in favor of Walker &amp...

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