Saunders v. Mullen,

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtSEEVERS
Citation66 Iowa 728,24 N.W. 529
Decision Date24 September 1885
PartiesSAUNDERS v. MULLEN.

66 Iowa 728
24 N.W. 529

SAUNDERS
v.
MULLEN.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Filed September 24, 1885.


Appeal from Union district court.

Action to recover damages for maliciously causing the levy of an execution on certain goods and chattels of the plaintiff. Trial by jury. Verdict and judgment for the plaintiff for $700. The defendant appeals.

[24 N.W. 529]

McDill & Sullivan, for appellant, Edward Mullen.

B. F. Harsh and Phillips & Day, for appellee, Clara A. Saunders.


SEEVERS, J.

1. The petition charged a conspiracy between the officer who made the levy and the defendant, but this charge was abandoned on the trial. Under the allegations of the petition and evidence it will be conceded that the plaintiff was entitled to recover the actual damages sustained, and also exemplary damages. The appellant assigns as error that the damages are “excessive, and must have been given under the influence of passion or prejudice.”

The plaintiff was the owner of a restaurant, and the property attached consisted of cakes, bread, pies, and other contents of the establishment, which, because of the levy, was closed from Friday evening until the forenoon of the following Monday. The cakes, pies, and bread were greatly injured or entirely spoiled. The plaintiff had in her employ clerks, cooks, and possibly other employes to whom she paid wages during the time the restaurant was closed. The foregoing matters embrace all the actual damages which the evidence tends to prove. We have carefully read the evidence, and readily reach the conclusion that the actual damages sustained could not possibly exceed $50. The amount allowed, therefore, as exemplary damages is at least $650.

We are forced to the conclusion that this amount is excessive. When the actual damages are so small, the amount allowed as exemplary damages should not be so large. It evinces, we think, prejudice on the part of the jury, caused in this case, no doubt, by the arbitrary conduct of the defendant, and total disregard of the ordinary requirements and conduct due from any person to his unfortunate debtor, and which we have no doubt was intensified in the minds of the jurors because the plaintiff was a woman who seems, under the trying circumstances, to have acted with great prudence and discretion. Still, we cannot but think the punishment too great. The amount of punitive damages that may be given in any case rests largely in the discretion of the jury. But such discretion is not unlimited. A court, and...

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20 practice notes
  • Amos v. Prom, Civ. No. 571.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 30, 1953
    ...v. Davis, 1894, 90 Iowa 324, 57 N.W. 849; Kuhn v. Chicago, M. & St. P. R. Co., 1888, 74 Iowa 137, 37 N.W. 116; Saunders v. Mullen, 1885, 66 Iowa 728, 24 N. W. 529, reversed where $650 exemplary damages and $50 compensatory damages; Sadler v. Bean, 1874, 38 Iowa 684, reversed where exemplary......
  • Txo Production Corp v. Alliance Resources Corp, No. 92-479
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1993
    ...Burkett v. Lanata, 15 La. 337, 339 (1860) (Punitive damages should "be commensurate to the nature of the offence"); Saunders v. Mullen, 66 Iowa 728, 729, 24 N.W. 529 (1885) ("When the actual damages are so small, the amount allowed as exemplary damages should not be so large"); Flannery v. ......
  • BMW of North America Inc. v. Gore, 94896
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 20, 1996
    ...7 La. Ann. 447, 448 (1852) ("[E]xemplary damages allowed should bear some proportion to the real damage sustained"); Saunders v. Mullen, 66 Iowa 728, 729, 24 N. W. 529 (1885) ("When the actual damages are so small, the amount allowed as exemplary damages should not be so large"); Flannery v......
  • Gregory v. Sorenson, No. 40973.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 5, 1932
    ...Co., 185 Iowa, 95, 169 N. W. 628;Union Mill Co. v. Prenzler (100 Iowa, 540, 69 N. W. 876), supra; Saunders v. Mullen, 66 Iowa, 728, 24 N. W. 529;Harvester Co. v. Hardware Co. (146 Iowa, 172, 122 N. W. 951, 29 L. R. A. (N. S.) 272), supra; Soesbe v. Lines, 180 Iowa, 943, 164 N. W. 129;Welsh ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Amos v. Prom, Civ. No. 571.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 30, 1953
    ...v. Davis, 1894, 90 Iowa 324, 57 N.W. 849; Kuhn v. Chicago, M. & St. P. R. Co., 1888, 74 Iowa 137, 37 N.W. 116; Saunders v. Mullen, 1885, 66 Iowa 728, 24 N. W. 529, reversed where $650 exemplary damages and $50 compensatory damages; Sadler v. Bean, 1874, 38 Iowa 684, reversed where exemplary......
  • Txo Production Corp v. Alliance Resources Corp, No. 92-479
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1993
    ...Burkett v. Lanata, 15 La. 337, 339 (1860) (Punitive damages should "be commensurate to the nature of the offence"); Saunders v. Mullen, 66 Iowa 728, 729, 24 N.W. 529 (1885) ("When the actual damages are so small, the amount allowed as exemplary damages should not be so large"); Flannery v. ......
  • BMW of North America Inc. v. Gore, 94896
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 20, 1996
    ...7 La. Ann. 447, 448 (1852) ("[E]xemplary damages allowed should bear some proportion to the real damage sustained"); Saunders v. Mullen, 66 Iowa 728, 729, 24 N. W. 529 (1885) ("When the actual damages are so small, the amount allowed as exemplary damages should not be so large"); Flannery v......
  • Gregory v. Sorenson, No. 40973.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 5, 1932
    ...Co., 185 Iowa, 95, 169 N. W. 628;Union Mill Co. v. Prenzler (100 Iowa, 540, 69 N. W. 876), supra; Saunders v. Mullen, 66 Iowa, 728, 24 N. W. 529;Harvester Co. v. Hardware Co. (146 Iowa, 172, 122 N. W. 951, 29 L. R. A. (N. S.) 272), supra; Soesbe v. Lines, 180 Iowa, 943, 164 N. W. 129;Welsh ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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