Kidd, Dater Price Company v. Musselman Grocer Company

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation54 L.Ed. 839,217 U.S. 461,30 S.Ct. 606
Docket NumberNo. 149,149
PartiesKIDD, DATER, & PRICE COMPANY, Plff. in Err., v. MUSSELMAN GROCER COMPANY
Decision Date16 May 1910

217 U.S. 461
30 S.Ct. 606
54 L.Ed. 839
KIDD, DATER, & PRICE COMPANY, Plff. in Err.,

v.

MUSSELMAN GROCER COMPANY.

No. 149.
Argued April 13, 14, 1910.
Decided May 16, 1910.

Messrs. G. M. Valentine, E. L. Hamilton,

Page 462

G. W. Bridgman, and E. B. Valentine for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 462-466 intentionally omitted]

Page 466

Messrs. Benn M. Corwin, Swagar Sherley, and Henry C. Quinby for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 466-469 intentionally omitted]

Page 469

Mr. Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:

This case involves the inquiry whether act No. 223 of the Public Acts of the state of Michigan of the year 1905, commonly known as the 'sales-in-bulk act,' is repugnant to the 14th Amendment. The act is copied in bthe margin.1

Page 470

The controversy thus arose: Early in the year 1906, Frank B. Ford operated a store in the village of Berrien Springs, Michigan, consisting of various departments,—hardware, grocery, meat market, and furniture department, and buggies and machinery department. Prior to May 23, 1906, Ford made sale of the stock included in the buggies and machinery department. On the day mentioned, plaintiff in error, after taking an inventory of the stock in the grocery department, valuing it at cost, less 10 per cent, purchased the same for $2,100, deducting an indebtedness due from Ford of $415.45, and paying the balance in cash. In making purchase, the requirements of the sales-in bulk act referred to were not complied with in any particular. After the sale, Ford still owned the meat market, worth between eight hundred and a thousand dollars, and the stock of hardware, worth between five and six thousand dollars. He afterwards sold the stock of hardware for about forty-one hundred dollars, and on such

Page 471

sale the requirements of the sales-in-bulk act were complied with. The meat market was also disposed of, and in February, 1907, bankruptcy proceedings were commenced against Ford, with what result the record does not disclose.

After the sale of the stock of the grocery department to Kidd, Dater, & Price Company, plaintiff in error, the Musselman Grocer Company, defendant in error, sued Ford upon an account, and joined as garnishee the Kidd, Dater & Price Company, upon the theory that the latter company incurred a liability to respond as garnishees for the property acquired from Ford, because of noncompliance with the requirements of the act in question. Upon the trial it was contended by counsel for Kidd, Dater, & Price Company that, if valid, the statute did not authorize garnishment proceedings for its enforcement, and that the act was invalid because repugnant both to the Constitution of the state and to the Constitution of the United States. The last contention, with which alone we are concerned, was thus expressed:

'The act violates § 1 of the 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution, which provides that no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'

The trial court held the contentions as to the proper construction of the statute and its constitutionality to be without merit, and, by direction, a verdict was returned for the plaintiff, upon which judgment was duly entered. Upon appeal, the supreme court of Michigan affirmed the judgment. 151 Mich. 478, 115 N. W. 409. It held the sales-in-bulk act to be constitutional, without discussion, upon the authority of a previous decision (Spurr v. Travis, 145 Mich. 721, 116 Am. St. Rep. 330, 108 N. W. 1090, 9 A. & E. Ann. Cas. 250), and further decided that the failure to comply with the act made the sale by Ford to Kidd, Dater, & Price Company void as to creditors, and that the plaintiff in garnishment was entitled to avail of the gar-

Page 472

nishment provisions of the compiled laws of the state. This writ of error was then prosecuted.

The errors assigned embody the proposition that the sales-in-bulk act in question was not a valid exercise of the police powers of the state, and is...

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