Rutland Ry., Light & Power Co. v. Williams

Citation98 A. 85
Case DateMay 15, 1916
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont
98 A. 85

RUTLAND RY., LIGHT & POWER CO.
v.
WILLIAMS et al.

Supreme Court of Vermont. Rutland.

May 15, 1916.


Munson, C. J., dissenting.

Exceptions from Rutland County Court; Willard W. Miles, Judge.

General assumpsit by the Rutland Railway, Light & Power Company against Hugh

98 A. 86

Williams and others. Judgment pro forma for plaintiff, and defendants except. Affirmed.

T. W. Moloney, of Rutland, for plaintiff. M. C. Webber, of Rutland, for defendants.

TAYLOR, J. The defendants were partners doing business under the firm name of the Williams Slate Company. A corporation called the Vermont Slate Company was doing business at the same time. Hugh Williams was the managing partner of the Williams Slate Company, and the treasurer and managing official of the Vermont Slate Company, carrying on the business of both companies in the same office. Both companies took power from the plaintiff, and both were indebted to it at the time of the transaction in question.

In August, 1913, Hugh Williams mailed to the plaintiff two notes of the Vermont Slate Company, with a statement showing the indebtedness of the Williams Slate Company to the plaintiff, and an application of the notes sufficient to balance it. These papers came to the hands of plaintiff's treasurer, who passed the notes to the bookkeeper without noticing how they were signed, and wrote across the balancing item of the statement, "credit on account." The item was then credited to the Williams Slate Company on the plaintiff's books; and in due course the statement was stamped "paid," and was formally receipted in full of the account and returned to the defendant. The notes amounted to more than the indebtedness of the Williams Slate Company, and the balance was credited on the account of the Vermont Slate Company.

Plaintiff was not requested by defendants to take the notes as payment, and it seems that no letter of direction accompanied the notes and balanced statement; for it is found that, when the notes were sent to and received by the plaintiff, nothing was said between the parties respecting the purpose and effect of the transaction. It is also found that said Hugh Williams subsequently admitted that the account was owed by the defendants and was for them to pay notwithstanding the notes. The Vermont Slate Company was bankrupt when the notes matured and has since been so adjudged. The notes were duly presented and protested and nothing has been paid on them. Plaintiff has charged the notes back to the Williams Slate Company and on the trial produced and offered to deliver them to any person authorized to receive them on behalf of the Vermont Slate Company or the defendants. Plaintiffs sought to recover on the original indebtedness, which defendants claimed was paid by the notes. The trial was by court with a pro forma judgment for the plaintiff on the facts found, to which defendants excepted.

The only question on the exception to the judgment relates to the issue of payment, and on this issue the burden of proof is upon the defendants. McDonald v. Place, 88 Vt. 80, 90 Atl. 948; Terry berry v. Woods, 69 Vt. 94, 37 Atl. 246; Smith & Durkee v. Woodworth, 43 Vt. 39. It is claimed that the defendants have discharged the burden of showing payment by securing a finding that the Vermont Slate Company's notes were accepted and credited by plaintiff on its account covering the items in dispute. It is argued that a presumption arises from the giving and receiving said notes that the parties intended thereby to pay the antecedent debt, and to substitute therefor the liability of the Vermont Slate Company on the notes; and that, to rebut this presumption, the burden is on the plaintiff to show that such was not the intention of the parties.

It is a rule of general application that a promissory note, either of the debtor or of a third person, received in settlement of an account, or for an antecedent debt, discharges the original indebtedness and bars an action on that account, whether the note is paid or not, if there is no fraud or unfairness in the transaction. This because, if one accepts a note in satisfaction of his debt, he is paid by his own agreement, and so cannot sue for his original debt. The rule is founded upon the presumption that it was the intention of the parties when the note was given and received that it should operate as payment unless a different intention appears. From this follows the rule, which is well settled in this state, that a negotiable note given for an antecedent debt is prima facie payment; or, in other words, nothing to the contrary appearing, it will be presumed that such was the intention of the parties. Hutchins v. Olcutt, 4 Vt. 549, 24 Am. Dec. 634; Edgell v. Stanford, 6 Vt. 551; Follett & Bradley v. Steele, 16 Vt. 31; Parr v. Stevens, 26 Vt. 299;' Dickinson v. King, 28 Vt. 378; Collamer v. Langdon, 29 Vt. 32; Wait v. Brewster, 31 Vt. 516; Wemet v. Lime Co., 46 Vt. 458; Ricker v. Adams, 59 Vt. 154, 8 Atl. 278; Hadley et al. v. Bordo, 62 Vt. 285, 19 Atl. 476. The rule is variously expressed in the cases. It is sometimes said that the circumstances raise a presumption of payment and sometimes that they afford presumptive evidence of payment. What is always meant is that a party makes out a prima facie case of payment when he shows a negotiable note given and received for an antecedent debt without more.

It remains to consider the effect of the rule upon the burden of proof. Defendants contend that it was shifted to the plaintiff by their prima facie ease and that the judgment is not supported by the findings, since the trial court did not find that it was not the intention of the parties that the notes should operate as payment. There are facts found tending to rebut the presumption of payment from which the trial court could have drawn a contrary inference; but,

98 A. 87

as the judgment is pro forma, we do not presume such an inference in support thereof. Brown v. Mudgett, 40 Vt. 68; In re Bryon, 83 Vt. 108, 74 Atl. 488. But defendants' claim as to the shortage of the findings is untenable. The burden of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
10 practice notes
  • Woodhouse v. Woodhouse
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 7, 1925
    ...not probative, as to which see Sheldon v. Wright, 80 Vt. 298, 320, 67 A. 807; Rutland Ry. Lt. & Pr. Co. v. Williams, 90 Vt. 276, 281, 98 A. 85; Zabarsky v. Employers' Ins. Co., 97 Vt. 377, 123 A. Express malice need not be proved. Malice in the sense used in actions of this kind implies......
  • Scott v. Bradford Nat. Bank
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • May 7, 1935
    ...of payment, which is an affirmative defense with the burden of proof on him who alleges it. Rutland, etc., Co. v. Williams, 90 Vt. 276, 278, 98 A. 85. The defendant attempted to satisfy this burden by proving a payment to Dickey as agent for the depositor. Agency is a question of fact, and ......
  • White River Chair Co. v. Conn. River Power Co. of N.H.
    • United States
    • November 2, 1932
    ...v. Bean, 78 Vt, 283, 62 A. 1015; Zeno v. Mason, 90 Vt. 173, 97 A. 355; Rutland Railway, Bight & Power Co. v. Williams, 90 Vt. 276, 279, 98 A. 85. When the defendant had introduced evidence tending to prove the fact that the ground water in plaintiff's land came from the hillside and the......
  • Pac. Lumber Agency v. Nat'l Aircraft Materials Corp.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • January 7, 1936
    ...remained on the plaintiff to show the title as it claimed it to be. Rutland Ry., Light & Power Co. v. Williams et al., 90 Vt. 276, 281, 98 A. 85; Duprat v. Chesmore, 94 Vt. 218, 226, 110 A. 305; Lachance v. Myers, 98 Vt. 498, 503, 129 A. 172; Landry v. Hubert, 101 Vt. 111, 113. 141 A. 5......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Woodhouse v. Woodhouse
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 7, 1925
    ...not probative, as to which see Sheldon v. Wright, 80 Vt. 298, 320, 67 A. 807; Rutland Ry. Lt. & Pr. Co. v. Williams, 90 Vt. 276, 281, 98 A. 85; Zabarsky v. Employers' Ins. Co., 97 Vt. 377, 123 A. Express malice need not be proved. Malice in the sense used in actions of this kind implies......
  • Scott v. Bradford Nat. Bank
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • May 7, 1935
    ...of payment, which is an affirmative defense with the burden of proof on him who alleges it. Rutland, etc., Co. v. Williams, 90 Vt. 276, 278, 98 A. 85. The defendant attempted to satisfy this burden by proving a payment to Dickey as agent for the depositor. Agency is a question of fact, and ......
  • White River Chair Co. v. Conn. River Power Co. of N.H.
    • United States
    • November 2, 1932
    ...v. Bean, 78 Vt, 283, 62 A. 1015; Zeno v. Mason, 90 Vt. 173, 97 A. 355; Rutland Railway, Bight & Power Co. v. Williams, 90 Vt. 276, 279, 98 A. 85. When the defendant had introduced evidence tending to prove the fact that the ground water in plaintiff's land came from the hillside and the......
  • Pac. Lumber Agency v. Nat'l Aircraft Materials Corp.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • January 7, 1936
    ...remained on the plaintiff to show the title as it claimed it to be. Rutland Ry., Light & Power Co. v. Williams et al., 90 Vt. 276, 281, 98 A. 85; Duprat v. Chesmore, 94 Vt. 218, 226, 110 A. 305; Lachance v. Myers, 98 Vt. 498, 503, 129 A. 172; Landry v. Hubert, 101 Vt. 111, 113. 141 A. 5......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT