People v. Briggs

Decision Date31 March 1889
CourtNew York Supreme Court


Appeal from judgment of the General Term of the first department, affirming judgment entered on verdict.

Albert Reynaud, for appellant.

William P. Quin, for respondent.


The right to maintain this action is dependent upon the statute, which, at the time in question, provided that no person “shall render or manufacture out of any animal fat, or animal or vegetable oils not produced from unadulterated milk or cream from the same, any article or product in imitation or semblance of or designed to take the place of natural butter or cheese produced from pure unadulterated milk or cream of the same, nor shall he … mix, compound with, or add to milk, cream or butter, any acids or other deleterious substance or any animal fats or animal or vegetable oils not produced from milk or cream, with design or intent to render, make or produce any article or substance or any human food in imitation or semblance of natural butter or cheese, nor shall he sell, keep for sale, or offer for sale, any article, substance or compound made, manufactured or produced in violation of the provisions of this section, whether such article, substance or compound shall be made or produced in this State or in any other State or country” ( Laws of 1885, ch. 183, § 7). And that “No person shall manufacture, mix or compound with or add to natural milk, cream or butter, any animal fats or animal or vegetable oils, nor shall he make or manufacture any oleaginous substance not produced from milk or cream, with intent to sell the same for butter or cheese made from unadulterated milk or cream, or have the same in his possession, or offer the same for sale with such intent, nor shall any article, substance or compound so made or produced, be sold for butter or cheese, the product of the dairy. If any person shall coat, powder or color with annatto or any coloring matter whatever, butter or oleomargarine, or any compounds of the same, or any product or manufacture made in whole or in part from animal fats or animal or vegetable oils, not produced from unadulterated milk or cream, whereby the said product, manufacture or compound shall be made to resemble butter or cheese, the product of the dairy, or shall have the same in his possession, or shall sell or offer for sale or have in his possession, any of the said products, which shall be colored or coated in resemblance of or to resemble butter or cheese, it shall be conclusive evidence of an intent to sell the same for butter or cheese, the product of the dairy” ( Id. § 8). Each of the above sections also provided that the violation of its provisions should be a misdemeanor or punishable as therein mentioned. And the statute further provided that any person who should violate any of the provisions of those sections should, in addition to the fines and punishments therein prescribed, forfeit and pay a penalty of five hundred dollars, to be recovered in an action to be prosecuted by the dairy commissioner, in the name of the people of the State of New York ( Id. § 19). And that such section seven should not apply to any product manufactured or in process of manufacture at the time of the passage of the act ( Id. § 21).

This action was brought in the manner so provided, to recover the penalty for the alleged violation of the provisions of such statute, in that the defendants had in their possession, with intent to sell, and sold, as butter--the product of the dairy--that which was not such, but came within the prohibition of the statute. And upon the trial, evidence upon the part of the plaintiffs was given tending to prove that the defendants, on May 25, 1885, had in their possession, at their store in the city of New York, with intent to sell as butter, the product of the dairy, a product which was not butter made from milk or cream of the same, but had been made out of some animal fat, not produced by unadulterated milk or cream, and which was colored by some coloring matter, whereby it was made to resemble butter, the product of the dairy, and at that time and place the defendants sold and delivered to a person named, one pound of such product, as and for butter, the product of the dairy. There was a conflict in evidence produced by that adduced on the part of the defendants. The plaintiffs had a verdict for the amount of the penalty, upon which judgment was entered January 4, 1887.

The constitutionality of the statute in question is not now an open question. The principles applicable and controlling in that respect were involved in and have been determined by adjudications in support of the statute (People v. Arensberg, 105 N. Y. 123;People v. West, 106 Id. 293; People v. Kibler, Id. 321). And the amendments to the sections seven and eight, made by chapter 458 of the Laws of 1885, and by chapter 577 of the Laws of 1886, did not alter their provisions essential to the purpose of this section. And therefore such provisions will be deemed to have continued without interruption, notwithstanding the amendments were made by the taking of the sections into the amendatory acts and making them a part of the new statute (Ely v. Holton, 15 N. Y. 595;People v. Supervisors, 67 Id. 109).

At the close of the evidence the defendants' counsel moved that the complaint be dismissed because it was not made to appear by evidence that the product in question had not been manufactured or was not in process of manufacture on April 30, 1885, which was the time when the act, which took effect immediately, was passed. No evidence was given upon that subject. And it is contended that this was a fact essential to recovery, and that the burden was with the plaintiffs to establish it by evidence. This provision of section twenty-one is not in the nature of a condition precedent to the right of recovery, in the sense applicable to that term, but is a saving clause, excepting from the operation of section seven the product not wholly manufactured after the passage of the act. In such case, and in view of the fact that the party having the article in his possession and dealing in it, may be supposed to have the means, which the plaintiffs have not, of tracing the product to the time of its manufacture, it is and in this case it was matter of defense and for the defendants to establish by way of relief from the prohibitory provisions of the statute (Sheldon v. Clark, 1 John. 513;Potter v. Deyo, 19 Wend. 361;Fleming v. People, 27 N. Y. 329;Harris v. White, 81 Id. 532;People v. Kibler, 106 Id. 321). The motion was therefore properly denied, and there was no error in the charge as made upon the subject of the burden of proof, which was with the defendant.

The court was requested and declined to charge the jury that they must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, of the violation by the defendants, before they could find against them, and charged that they might so find upon a preponderance of evidence. And exceptions were taken. The proposition uniformly applied in criminal cases, which gives to the accused the benefit of any reasonable doubt, has, in some of the States, and in others not, been deemed applicable to civil actions in which is involved for determination that which might be the subject of criminal prosecution.

We have examined the numerous reported cases of the several States and England, and the text books cited by counsel, and some other cases, upon this question, and think that in civil actions the rule that the preponderance of evidence is sufficient to warrant the finding of the fact in which is involved the charge of such character, has the support of the better reason. This question was well considered at the General Term, and it is deemed unnecessary to here specifically refer to the many cases on the subject. In this State there are but few reported cases in which the question was considered. In Woodbeck v. Keller (6 Cow. 118), which was an action of slander, upon the charge of perjury, which the defendant sought to justify, and the court there said that the evidence must be the same as required to convict a defendant on an indictment for perjury, that there must be either evidence of two witnesses, or of one witness corroborated by material and independent circumstances, to establish the fact. And while there indicating and substantially declaring the doctrine contended for by defendants' counsel, the question did not necessarily arise in that case to the extent to require the determination whether or not the fact must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. And in Clark v. Dibble (16 Wend. 601) and Hopkins v. Smith (3 Barb. 599) the court was content with the citation of the Woodbeck case, on that proposition. The judicial declaration of that doctrine in England was followed by the courts, in some cases in this country. This remark is more applicable to the earlier than to more recent cases. In the later cases where the question has arisen, the rule in that respect applicable to criminal cases had not been applied to civil actions in this State. In Johnson v. Agricultural Insurance Co. (25 Hun, 251) it was held that the preponderance of evidence was sufficient to support the defense that the fire which caused the injury to the insured property, the subject of the action upon the policy, was set by the fraudulent act of the plaintiff. In citing that case in Seybolt v. N. Y., L. E. & W. R. R. Co. (95 N. Y. 562, 569) the court did not express any opinion upon the question now under consideration. But in N. Y. and Brooklyn Ferry Co. v. Moore (102 N. Y. 667, fully reported in 18 Abb. N. C. 106) the court said: “There is no rule of law which requires the plaintiff in a civil action, when a judgment against the defendant may establish his guilt of a crime, to prove his case with the same certainty which is required in criminal prosecutions. Nothing more is required in such cases than a...

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  • State v. O'Neil
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 16, 1910 the uniform tenor of the authorities such a determination is conclusive on every one until reversed or overruled. People v. Briggs, 114 N. Y. 63, 20 N. E. 820;People v. Arensberg, 105 N. Y. 123, 11 N. E. 277, 59 Am. Rep. 483;People v. West, 106 N. Y. 293, 12 N. E. 610, 60 Am. Rep. 452;Pe......
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 16, 1910
    ... ... purpose of rendering such decision as shall appeal to ... intelligent and fair-minded people as right and proper ... Courts have always taken such considerations into account in ... the enforcement of legislative enactments. Before there ... uniform tenor of the authorities such a determination is ... conclusive on every one until reversed or overruled ... People v. Briggs , 114 N.Y. 56 (20 N.E. 820); ... People v. Arensberg, 105 N.Y. 123 (11 N.E. 277, 59 ... Am. Rep. 483); People v. West , 106 N.Y. 293 (12 N.E ... ...
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