Humes v. Decatur Land Improvement & Furnace Co.

Decision Date24 May 1893
Citation13 So. 368,98 Ala. 461
CourtAlabama Supreme Court
PartiesHUMES ET AL. v. DECATUR LAND IMPROVEMENT & FURNACE CO.

Appeal from circuit court, Morgan county; H. C. Speake, Judge.

Action by Humes, Walker & Sheffey against the Decatur Land Improvement & Furnace Company to recover for professional services as attorneys. From a judgment for defendant plaintiffs appeal. Reversed.

The facts attending the employment of the plaintiffs, as shown by the witnesses introduced in their behalf, were as follows: In the early part of the year 1888, Judge Brickell, who was the general counsel of the defendant, telegraphed to Mr. Humes of the plaintiff firm, to come to Decatur; that, in response to said telegram, Mr. Humes went to Decatur, and there, in conversation with Major Gordon, who was then the president of the company, Mr. Harris, who was one of the directors, and Judge Brickell, the conversation which led up to the employment of the plaintiffs was had. The evidence for the plaintiffs further tended to show that, in this conversation Mr. Humes was told that the gentlemen with whom he was talking desired to secure the services of his farm in the litigation of Gordon v. Bean and Williams. The substance of the litigation is sufficiently stated in the opinion. Mr Humes testified that during this conversation he was told that it was a matter of great importance to the company that a speedy and successful termination of the suit be obtained and that any other result would be disastrous, and that this was the principal reason stated to him for the employment of his firm in the suit. He was thereupon given a history of the transactions involved in the suit, and immediately thereafter commenced to "render services for which he was employed." Upon further testifying, this witness stated that he had no recollection of any specific agreement or understanding as to what amount the compensation would be, but he understood, and it was so stated, that his firm was to be employed in the case for the benefit of, and to render services for, the Decatur Land Improvement & Furnance Company, and that he understood that he was to be paid by said company. There was also evidence to the effect that while the suit was being prosecuted, nominally, in the name of Gordon, it was for the benefit of the defendant in this cause; and that, while Gordon took part in the conversation in which the plaintiffs' firm was employed, Mr. Humes was not employed by him in his individual capacity, but in his capacity as president of the defendant. Judge Brickell, as a witness, testified that he was not willing to take all of the responsibility, and after talking over the matter with Mr. Harris he saw Major Gordon, and told him to employ Capt. Humes, and that he insisted upon it, whereupon Capt. Humes was telegraphed for, and his services engaged. Mr. Gordon, as a witness, testified that, about the middle of July, Judge Brickell said to him that the case of Gordon v. Bean was pending, and that he and Mr. Harris had gotten pretty well through with the cause, but that there were two or three other witnesses in the case whose depositions had to be taken, and they needed the services of some other attorney to take their testimony; that Judge Brickell suggested the employment of Capt. Humes, as he "had special tact for business of that sort." This witness further testified that after the arrival of Mr. Humes in Decatur, in response to a telegram, and in conversation with him when alone, he (Gordon) employed Mr. Humes, and agreed upon a fee of $250; that at the time he had this conversation, and employed Mr. Humes, he did not suppose there was a great deal of work to be done, and regarded this a reasonable fee,-and further testified: "I made the contract with him individually, to protect my individual interests." There was testimony, introduced without conflict, showing that the plaintiffs performed a great deal more work than that for which they were originally employed, and that they were of counsel in the case up to the time of its final settlement. There was also evidence introduced by several attorneys that the services performed by the plaintiffs in the case involved were reasonably worth $5,000. Upon the examination of Mr. Sheffey as a witness, he testified that he was one of the partners of the plaintiff firm. He was asked on cross-examination the following question: "In the case of Gordon v. Bean, what, in your judgment, would be a reasonable fee for the services, as associate counsel, employed at the time your firm was employed, to obtain specific performance of that contract, independent of the value of the land, looking only to the pleadings representing plaintiff's interest in said cause?" The plaintiffs objected to this question on the ground that it was irrelevant and immaterial testimony. The court overruled the objection to this question, and the plaintiffs excepted. The witness answered: "The whole fee should have been ten per cent."

The plaintiffs requested the following written charge, and duly excepted to the court's refusal to give said charge: (3) "If the jury believe from the evidence that the plaintiffs were employed in the said chancery case of Gordon v. Bean and Williams by the said Gordon, and at the time of such employment he was the president of the defendant, and if the jury further find that at the time of such employment nothing was said by either of the parties to said conversation as to the capacity in which the said Gordon was acting, in contracting for such employment, the said Humes and the other plaintiffs in the case would have the right to presume that the said Gordon, from all the circumstances in the case, was acting for and on behalf of the defendant in the making of the said contract of employment; and if the jury further believe from the evidence in the case that the plaintiffs acted upon the correctness of this presumption, in the performance of the service sued for in this action, the jury would be authorized to find for the plaintiffs."

At the request of the defendant the court gave the following written charges, to the giving of each of which the plaintiffs separately excepted: (1) "If you believe from the evidence that the land company was in like interest with said Gordon in the result of the litigation of the case of Gordon v. Bean, and that said land company was benefited by the services rendered by plaintiffs in said cause, yet there is no rule of law which fastens the liability on said land company for any part of plaintiffs' fee in said case unless plaintiffs were employed therein by said land company." (2) "If you believe from the evidence that both Gordon and the land company were interested in the property involved in the litigation of Gordon v. Bean, and that Gordon individually employed plaintiffs to press an interpretation of the contract involved in said suit favorable to the interest of said Gordon and said land company, and that plaintiffs were not at the same time employed by said land company in said cause, then this was Gordon's individual act,-Gordon's individual contract,-and the land company would not be liable to plaintiffs therefor." (3) "However valuable the services of plaintiffs, for which this suit is instituted, may have been to the land company, yet plaintiffs cannot recover of said land company unless they were employed by it in the suit in which such services were rendered. The law is that when Humes was employed as attorney, and entered upon his employment, in the case of Gordon v. Bean, his duty was a vigilant prosecution of the rights of Gordon in the litigation." (5) "Notwithstanding the land company may have been benefited by the services rendered by plaintiffs in the case of Gordon v. Bean, if you believe such to be a fact, yet the jury is not authorized to go beyond the parties making the contract by which such services in said cause were procured, in search of an implied promise to pay for such incidental benefit." (6) "So far as the liability of this defendant is concerned, it makes no difference what plaintiffs understood as to the land company being liable to them for their fee in said case of Gordon v. Bean. If you believe from the evidence that plaintiffs' services in said cause of Gordon v. Bean were not procured by the defendant land company, then this defendant is not liable to plaintiffs for their services in said case, and your verdict should be for the defendant." (7) "When Humes first entered upon his employment as an attorney in the case of Gordon v. Bean, he did so under a contract, either expressed or implied; and any promise afterwards made by the land company, either express or implied, to pay him or his firm for services rendered in said cause in his capacity as associate attorney in said cause of Gordon v. Bean, is without consideration, so far as the land company (defendant) is concerned, and the defendant in this cause would not be liable therefor." (8) "If you believe from the evidence that plaintiffs entered upon the prosecution of the case of Gordon v. Bean under promise, either expressed or implied, from Gordon, that they were to be paid a reasonable compensation for their services, then the defendant land company is not liable to plaintiffs for the services rendered by them in said cause, and your verdict should be for the defendant." (9) "Before the plaintiffs can recover in this action, it devolves upon them to show to your reasonable satisfaction that their services in said case of Gordon v. Bean were retained by the defendant land company; and if you believe from the evidence that the plaintiffs entered upon the performance of services in said cause of Gordon v. Bean at the instance of said Gordon, and under an implied promise from him to pay them what their services...

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22 cases
  • Dent v. Foy
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • December 10, 1925
    ... ... See, ... also, Humes v. Decatur Land Co., 98 Ala. 461, 13 So ... In ... ...
  • Ex parte Brown
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • March 2, 1990
    ...entitled to reasonable compensation for his services, appropriate to his employment, rendered by him to his client.--Humes v. Decatur, etc., Co., 98 Ala. 461, 470, 13 South. 368 [1893]. In the estimation of their value many elements may be material for consideration, among which are the nat......
  • Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union v. Poston
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • September 7, 1984
    ...entitled to reasonable compensation for his services, appropriate to his employment, rendered by him to his client. -- Humes v. Decatur, Etc., Co., 98 Ala. 461, 470, 13 South. 368. In the estimation of their value many elements may be material for consideration, among which are the nature a......
  • King v. Keith, 2 Div. 292
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • June 26, 1952
    ...expenses incurred. T. S. Faulk & Co. v. Hobbie Grocery Co., 178 Ala. 254, 59 So. 450; Dent v. Foy, supra; Humes v. Decatur Land Improvement & Furnace Co., 98 Ala. 461, 13 So. 368; Frazer v. First National Bank, In the light of the guiding principles, after a considerate and painstaking stud......
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