Ladd v. Martineau

Decision Date14 April 1939
Docket NumberNo. 31873.,31873.
Citation205 Minn. 129,285 N.W. 281
PartiesLADD et al. v. MARTINEAU.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Appeal from District Court, Mower County; Norman E. Peterson, Judge.

Action by Ethel Cain Ladd and I. S. Linson, Clerk of the District Court of Rolette County, North Dakota, against Ernest Martineau, the same person as Ernest E. Martineau, and E. A. Martineau, to require him to pay a certain sum under a foreign judgment, and for contempt proceedings should the defendant fail to pay the amount of the judgment. From an adverse judgment, the defendant appeals.

Judgment affirmed.

Sasse, French & Dunnette, of Austin, for appellant.

Catherwood, Hughes & Alderson, of Austin, for respondents.

GALLAGHER, Chief Justice.

Defendant, Ernest Martineau, appeals from a judgment of a district court of this state requiring him to pay to plaintiff I. S. Linson, Clerk of the District Court of Rolette county, North Dakota, the sum of $1885.65 in trust for plaintiff Ethel Cain Ladd for the purposes set forth in the judgment and directing contempt proceedings as provided in 1 Mason Minn.St.1927, § 3265, upon failure to pay the same within 10 days after service of a copy of the judgment upon him.

The suit was upon a foreign judgment bearing date August 28, 1924, rendered and docketed in the district court of Rolette county, in an action in which the State of North Dakota was plaintiff and the above named Ernest Martineau was defendant. It adjudged Martineau to be the father of an illegitimate child born to one Ethel Cain (now Ethel Cain Ladd) on or about June 5, 1923, and required him to pay for the support of said child the sum of $10 per month on the 15th day of each month for a period of six years commencing July 15, 1924, and thereafter $12.50 per month for a period of ten years or until the child attain the age of 16 years. The payments were to cease in case of its death. It further provided that the payments be made to the clerk of the district court of Rolette county for the use of Ethel Cain, the mother. The present action was instituted to recover accrued amounts due under this judgment aggregating $1720 and interest thereon. In addition to the heretofore mentioned facts, the trial court found that the North Dakota judgment has never been appealed from or modified, is still in full force and effect, and that no payments of money therein ordered to be paid by defendant have been paid; that defendant is a resident of Mower county, Minnesota; that Ethel Cain Ladd is a resident of North Dakota; that the child of whom defendant was adjudged the father is still alive, is not yet 16 years old and is in the custody of the mother; that I. S. Linson is the duly appointed, qualified and acting clerk of the district court of Rolette county, North Dakota, and brings this action in that capacity; that neither the child in question nor her mother is a resident of Minnesota and that neither is likely to become a charge of the state of Minnesota or any governmental subdivision thereof.

As conclusions of law, the court found that all payments under the North Dakota judgment which accrued up to and including the payment due February 15, 1927, were barred by the statute of limitations at the time the present action was commenced; that plaintiff was entitled to judgment against defendant for the total sum of each payment under said judgment beginning with the payment due March 15, 1927, and extending to and including the payment due February 15, 1937, together with interest on each of the unpaid installments from the time of its accrual at the rate of six per cent per annum together with plaintiff's costs and disbursements; that said judgment be held in trust for the benefit of plaintiff Ladd by the plaintiff Linson as clerk of the district court of Rolette county and by his successors in office; that the judgment be docketed against defendant and that it order him to pay the money judgment and if defendant fail to do so within ten days after a copy of the judgment is served upon him he may be dealt with as for contempt as provided in 1 Mason Minn.St. 1927, § 3265. Judgment was entered in accordance with the conclusions.

Thereafter, on motion by the defendant to amend and for vacation of judgment, certain evidence was admitted to the record whereby it is indicated that under the North Dakota law applicable to this case a defendant once imprisoned for failure to pay a judgment rendered against him in illegitimacy proceedings and subsequently released after having taken a pauper's oath is forever exempt from imprisonment for failure to pay the same judgment; and that the defendant in this action had been so imprisoned and released.

Appellant contends on this appeal that the trial court erred: (1) In finding, since the North Dakota judgment was not final, that it was entitled to "full faith and credit", (2) in failing to find that the entire judgment was barred by the statute of limitations, and (3) in providing for contempt proceedings in the event the judgment was not paid.

1. The question of the extent to which the "full faith and credit" clause of the federal constitution, U.S.C.A.Const. art. 4, § 1, should be applied was considered by this court in Holton v. Holton, 153 Minn. 346, 190 N.W. 542, 544, 41 A.L.R. 1415. That case involved an action brought in a court of this state to recover upon a judgment of a sister state entered for unpaid alimony due under a divorce decree of the latter. The trial court concluded that the judgment was entitled to full faith and credit and awarded judgment in plaintiff's favor. On appeal from an order denying a new trial, defendant's principal contention was that the judgment of the sister state was not a final judgment entitled to full faith and credit in the courts of this state. This court affirmed the order saying: "* * * we hold that so long as the judgment is absolute in its terms and remains unmodified, or at least until an application for modification has been made, it is final as to installments of alimony which have accrued. Sound public policy forbids the adoption of a rule which would permit a husband to escape his obligation to support his wife or infant children by crossing a state line. It has been well said that the courts should follow a course which will tend to unify the remedial agencies of the country by making them enforceable in all its parts. It would be a reproach to our system of legal administration if one could escape from the operation of a judicial decree by going into another state, for this is one country, and so far as possible it should have one law."

The judgment in the instant case was absolute in its terms; no application for modification had been made. Under the rule of the Holton case, we must regard it as final.

Restatement, Conflict of Laws, § 443, provides: "A valid foreign judgment for the payment of money which has been obtained in favor of a state, a state agency, or a private person, on a cause of action created by the law of the foreign state as a method of furthering its own governmental interests will not be enforced."

While the parties have not considered this phase of the problem, we think it not improper to state that the general rule which this section embodies does not apply to the instant case. Rather does it come within the exception to this rule which is stated in Subdivision (c) of the same section:

"The rule stated in this section does not apply to alimentary claims in a sister state. If a final judgment for the payment of money is given in favor of a private person on such a claim the judgment can be enforced in another state.

"Illustration:

"3. By a court in state X, A is declared the father of an illegitimate child, and is ordered to pay $10.00 a week to the child for its support. The mother sues A in state Y, in the name of the child, for the amount due and unpaid. Judgment will be given in her favor."

Cf. Milwaukee County v. M.E. White Co., 296 U.S. 268, 56 S.Ct. 229, 80 L.Ed. 220.

2. Appellant's next contention is premised on 2 Mason Minn.St.1927, § 9190...

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