Jennings v. Rooney

Citation183 Mass. 577,67 N.E. 665
Decision Date18 June 1903
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Whipple, Sears & Ogden, for plaintiff.

T. E Grover and H. H. Pratt, for defendant.



In this case the plaintiff, a real estate broker, seeks to recover a commission as compensation in selling for the defendant the 'Union Mill Privilege in Walpole.'

The evidence for the plaintiff tended to show that the privilege was held under a lease by the Windmill Light & Power Company and all negotiations with the defendant and the officers of the company were conducted, and a purchaser found and sale made, by Thomas B. Podbury, who was in the employment of and represented the plaintiff. The defendant denied that he had requested or authorized Podbury to find a purchaser of the privilege, or that he had placed the sale of the property with either the plaintiff or Podbury, and, so far as can be ascertained from the bill of exceptions, apparently claimed that in all that Podbury did he was seeking to buy the privilege for a customer of the plaintiff, and that the sale subsequently made to Elwell was effected independently of any efforts of the plaintiff. The plaintiff having obtained a verdict, the case is before us on exceptions by the defendant to the admission and exclusion of evidence at the trial. Five of the exceptions relate to the admission of certain questions put to the defendant Rooney on cross-examination and may be considered together; while, of the three remaining, one is to the rejection of certain evidence offered by the defendant, and two refer to testimony in rebuttal put in by the plaintiff.

1. It became evident in the progress of the case that the defendant had been interested as a stockholder in and was treasurer of a corporation known as the 'Windmill Light & Power Company,' of which Mr. Joseph J. Feely, who was the only witness called by the defendant, was president and also a stockholder, and that the company had a lease of the privilege. The financial success of the enterprise was open to doubt, and how far this led to a sale of his stock by Feely, and furnished a reason why the defendant, who knew of it, would be willing or desirous to dispose of the mill privilege, was a legitimate matter of inquiry. With the question as to the sale of his stock by Feely, the plaintiff was not seeking to prove its transfer as shown on the books of the corporation, but only as to how far the defendant knew of such sale. The fact that the company was losing money would not be an attempt to show its financial condition in detail, but generally, and which would be within the peculiar knowledge of the defendant, its treasurer. What influence, if any, this condition of affairs might have on him, would be material as tending to show an inducement to sell his property.

How far the cross-examination of a witness may be deemed helpful and relevant to the issue being tried, as well as to what extent the accuracy, veracity, or credibility of witnesses may be tested, must be left largely to the sound discretion of the presiding judge, and is not open to revision, unless it is shown that such discretion has been exercised in a way that results in the prejudice of a party to the cause, by reason either of too narrow restriction or too great breadth of inquiry. Moody v. Rowell, 17 Pick. 490, 498, 28 Am. Dec. 317; Commonwealth v. Shaw, 4 Cush. 593; Rand v. Newton, 6 Allen, 38; Prescott v. Wood, 10 Allen, 203, 209; Commonwealth v. Lyden, 113 Mass. 452; Wallace v. Taunton Street Railway, 119 Mass. 91, 93; Thayer v. Boston, 124 Mass. 132, 148, 26 Am. Rep. 650; Barrett v. Murphy, 140 Mass. 133, 143, 2 N.E. 833; Commonwealth v. Schaffner, 146 Mass. 512, 515, 16 N.E. 280; Commonwealth v. Brady, 147 Mass. 583, 18 N.E. 568; Goodnow v. Boston Gas Light Co., 165 Mass. 411, 419, 43 N.E. 178; Munro v. Stowe, 175 Mass. 169, 172, 55 N.E. 992; De Forge v. New York, etc., R. R. Co., 178 Mass. 59, 64, 59 N.E. 669, 86 Am. St. Rep. 464. These questions were well within the rule.

2. The next exception is to the exclusion of evidence, offered by the defendant, that, at the time when Podbury talked with Feely, not only was the Union privilege the subject of conversation, but that inquiry was made as to the 'horse power of a certain mill privilege in...

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2 cases
  • Jennings v. Rooney
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • June 18, 1903
    ...183 Mass. 57767 N.E. 665JENNINGSv.ROONEY.Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.June 18, Exceptions from Superior Court, Suffolk County; Danl. W. Bond, Judge. Action by Charles E. Jennings against John B. Rooney. Verdict for plaintiff, and defendant excepts. Exceptions overruled.[......
  • Cogswell v. Hall
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • June 18, 1903

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