178 U.S. 353 (1900), 266, Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company v. Clark

Docket Nº:No. 266
Citation:178 U.S. 353, 20 S.Ct. 924, 44 L.Ed. 1099
Party Name:Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company v. Clark
Case Date:May 28, 1900
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 353

178 U.S. 353 (1900)

20 S.Ct. 924, 44 L.Ed. 1099

Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company



No. 266

United States Supreme Court

May 28, 1900

        Argued April 20, 23, 1900




        The record shows that the cause came on for trial without a jury, a trial by jury having been expressly waived by written consent of the parties, that a referee was duly appointed by similar consent in accordance with the rules and customs of the District in which the trial was had, and that his findings, rulings, and decisions were made those of the court. Held that the question whether the judgment rendered was warranted by the facts found was open for consideration in the circuit court of appeals, and is so here.

        Clark contracted with the railway company for the construction of part of its road. He also contracted for the completion of his work on a day named. It was not completed till sometime after that day. Clark contended that the failure was caused by the neglect of the company to procure a right of way. When the time for settlement came, there were also other disputes between him and the company, which are set forth in detail in the statement of facts. The result was that Clark signed a paper in which, after stating the disputed claims in detail, it was said:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, the said Heman Clark, have received of and from the said Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company, the sum of one hundred and seventy three thousand, five hundred and thirty-two

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and 49/100 dollars in full satisfaction of the amount due me on said estimates, and in full satisfaction of all claims and demands of every kind, name and nature arising from or growing out of said contract of March 6, 1886, and of the construction of said railroad, excepting the obligation of said railway company to account for said forty thousand dollars, as herein provided.

        This paper, after signature, was given by him to the railway company, and in return they gave him a check for the balance named. Five years and more after this transaction, this action was brought to recover the disputed claims. Held that Clark was barred by his release from recovering the disputed sums.

        The rule laid down in Cumber v. Wane, 1 Strange 426, that where a liquidated sum is due, the payment of a less sum in satisfaction thereof, though accepted as satisfaction, is not binding as such for want of consideration, has been much questioned and qualified, and is considered so far with disfavor as to be confined strictly to cases within it.

       Heman Clark constructed some 200 miles of railroad in the States of Iowa and Missouri [20 S.Ct. 925] for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company under a written contract dated March 6, 1886, which is set forth in the findings hereafter referred to. During the period of construction, the company paid Clark large sums of money on account. After the road was completed, the chief engineer of the company, as was his duty under the contract, certified to the total amount that Clark had earned under the contract. This amount was $3,895,798.79. But Clark claimed also the further sum of $34,598.90 for material sold by him to the company, and certain rebates and other matters of that description, which would make the aggregate $3,930,397.69. As to the amount that should be credited to the company, the company claimed credits to the amount of $3,716,865.20, while Clark contended that the total amount that should be credited was $3,667,306.59, or $49,558.63 less than the amount claimed by the company. This latter amount was made up of two items -- one of $40,000, for overtime forfeiture or penalty, and the other of $9,558.63, the amount paid by the company for nut locks furnished to Clark, and used by him in the construction of the road. The company prepared an account stated which allowed the $34,598.50 on one side of the account and included the $40,000 and the $9,558.63 on the other, and appended to it a release for Clark to sign if he accepted the balance therein stated. The account

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stated and release were sent to him with notice that, upon signing and returning the same to the vice-president of the company, a check for the balance shown by the account to be due would be sent to him. Immediately thereupon, on March 9, 1888, the account and release were returned by Clark to the vice-president, signed and witnessed, and a check for the full amount of such balance, $173, 532.29, was at once delivered to Clark, who endorsed, and deposited it in his bank and received the proceeds thereof.

        August 5, 1893, Clark commenced this action against the railroad company to recover amounts which he claimed to be due him on account of the construction of the road, and for extra work and other claims growing out of the contract. The complaint originally contained three causes of action, but by amendment the number was increased to six. The second, third, fourth, and sixth causes of action, and part of the first cause, were eliminated from the case by the judgment, and Clark recovered on the two items of $40,000 and $9,558.63 under the first cause of action, and also under the fifth cause for $2,425, a matter arising subsequent to the release, and not included within it.

        The action was originally brought in the state court, but was removed on the application of the company to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York. After issue was joined, the cause came on for trial at a regular term of the circuit court. Trial by jury was waived by written consent of the parties, filed with the clerk, and the cause was referred to a referee, who in due time made his report and findings. The court adopted the findings of the referee and ordered judgment thereon for the sum of $80,479.35. This judgment was subsequently affirmed by the circuit court of appeals. 92 F. 968.

        The findings of fact and conclusions of law of the referee were as follows:

        Findings of Fact

1. That in the month of March, 1886, the defendant, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, made and entered into a contract in writing with the plaintiff, dated the

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6th day of March, 1886, for the construction of a line of railroad from a point in the City of Ottumwa, Iowa, to a place called Harlem Station, in the State of Missouri, a distance of about 202.8 miles, to be completed on the 1st day of August, 1887, a copy of which contract is hereto annexed, marked "A."

2. That immediately after the execution of the said contract, the plaintiff proceeded to carry out and perform the same, and did carry out and perform the same except a portion thereof otherwise agreed between the parties, and substantially completed the same on or about the 1st day of November, 1887, and the same was duly accepted by the defendant on or about the first part of March, 1888.

3. That on or about the third day of March, 1888, the chief engineer in charge of said work under said contract made a final certificate and estimate, which is copied in full in the twentieth and twenty-first findings of fact last asked by the defendant, and by this reference is made part hereof.

4. That said certificate and estimate were delivered to the defendant, but were never delivered to the plaintiff or any of his agents, and were not seen by the plaintiff or any of his agents or brought to his knowledge otherwise than by the reference thereto in the receipt of March 9, 1888, hereinafter referred to, until the trial of this action.

5. That the consideration for the performance of said contract originally mentioned in said contract was $3,914,600, but before the execution of said contract by the plaintiff, by and with the consent of the defendant, the consideration was changed and made $3,954,600.

6. That the plaintiff made and entered into a supplemental contract whereby he agreed with the defendant to complete his performance of said contract on or before June 1, 1887, and to allow the said defendant, by way of forfeiture, in case the said railway were not so completed by the 1st of June, 1887, the sum of $40,000.

7. That the defendant failed to furnish the plaintiff with rights of way as by said contract it had agreed to do in time to enable the plaintiff to complete his contract prior to the 1st of June, 1887, or prior to the 1st of August, 1887, but, on the

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contrary, delayed the plaintiff in the performance of said contract at a point upon the said road known as Minneville until October 27, 1887, by reason of the neglect, failure, and omission of the defendant to obtain the necessary right of way at said point so as to permit the construction [20 S.Ct. 926] of the road and completion of the contract at said point.

8. That the plaintiff was thereby prevented from completing his contract on or prior to August 1, 1887, and also on or prior to June 1, 1887, by the negligence, omission, and fault of the defendant.

9. That during the progress of the work, the defendant purchased and furnished to the plaintiff and charged him for patented nut locks, for which the defendant paid $9,558.63.

10. That the said nut locks so furnished by the defendant were used by the plaintiff in the construction of the road.

11. That there are no provisions in the contract which require that the plaintiff, and the plaintiff never agreed that he, should use in the construction of the railroad under said contract any patented nut locks.

12. That the plaintiff was ordered by defendant to put such nut locks on the road at the beginning of the work. That he protested against their use, and finally yielded and used them in track laying upon the promise that the matter of the charge for said nut locks should be adjusted after the completion...

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