Taber v. Hutson

Decision Date28 November 1854
PartiesTaber v. Hutson
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

APPEAL from the Cass Circuit Court.

The judgment is reversed with costs. Cause remanded.

Daniel D. Pratt, for the appellant.

Horace P. Biddle, Lewis Chamberlain and B. W. Peters, for the appellee.

Davison J. Stuart, J., having been Concerned as counsel was absent.


Davison J.

Trespass by Hutson against Taber. The declaration contains four counts; the first three for assault and battery and for false imprisonment, and the fourth for an assault and battery. Plea, the general issue. Verdict for the plaintiff of 600 dollars. New trial refused, and judgment for the plaintiff.

During the trial, it was proved that Taber committed an assault and battery on Hutson, and also charged him before the mayor of Logansport with having stolen and concealed in his house 800 dollars, the property of Taber; upon which charge Hutson's house was searched without finding the money and he himself was imprisoned in the county jail.

Thereupon Taber produced evidence tending to show that on a previous occasion, Hutson's house had been searched by an officer of the law, upon a charge of stolen property being therein concealed. To the introduction of this evidence Hutson assented, but Taber, when it was given, disavowed any purpose to impugn Hutson's character; its object being to show that he was under suspicion of dishonesty, and that, on that account, Taber was justified in proceeding on less evidence than would be required to charge one who had always stood fair in community. But in connection with this, it was shown that such previous search did not result in finding the property sought; nor was the search directed against Hutson's premises on suspicion that he himself was in possession of the lost property; but that it had been stolen by another person, who was, at the time, stopping with him.

The evidence relative to the previous search was commented upon by the plaintiff's counsel, in his argument to the jury, as showing a continuous malice on the part of Taber towards Hutson, and as adding insult to injury.

In relation to this branch of the case, the defendant moved the Court to instruct the jury, that "the fact of Taber having, on this trial, while disavowing any purpose to blacken Hutson's character, introduced evidence tending to show that his premises were, upon another occasion, searched by an officer, as extenuating Taber's conduct for making the search in question, is not to be considered by the jury as aggravating the present wrong complained of; such course in his defence, taken with Hutson's consent, gives him no title to increased damages."

This instruction was refused. We think it was pertinent to the case, and involved a proper direction to the jury. The mere introduction of the evidence, no matter what Taber's purpose may have been in offering it, could not properly be considered in estimating the damages. Still the refusal, though erroneous, can not be allowed to reverse the judgment; because the Court, in its charge, virtually covered the ground assumed by the refused instruction. The jury were explicitly told, that "if they should find Taber guilty, the damages assessed by them must be based alone on the trespass and false imprisonment alleged in Hutson's declaration, and the violent matters of aggravation immediately consequent thereon." This charge was delivered without being reduced to writing, and for that reason it is said to be objectionable. We think differently. The law in force when the instruction was given, did not require the Court to reduce its charges to writing, unless requested to do so by a party to the suit. In the present case, no such request appears to have been made; nor was the charge objected to in the Court below because it was given orally; and such objection, being first made in this Court, comes too late. R. S. 1843, c. 40, § 326.

At the plaintiff's request, the Court instructed, that "in giving exemplary damages, it is proper for the jury to consider the wealth of the defendant, and if they find him to be a wealthy man, they may increase the exemplary damages, because what would tend to repress injury and outrage in a poor man, might have no such effect in a man of wealth; and it is the true policy of the law, in such cases, not only to give compensation for the actual loss, but to give such additional damages as will tend to prevent such conduct, and give peace and security to private rights and the community in general."

Upon the subject of this instruction, the authorities are numerous but not uniform. They are principally cited in 2

Greenleaf's Ev., § 253, note 2. Also in Sedgwick on Damages, p. 38, et seq.

Mr. Greenleaf lays down the rule, that "damages should be precisely commensurate with the injury; neither more nor less." But Mr. Sedgwick says, that "whenever the elements of fraud, malice, gross negligence or oppression mingle in the controversy, the law, instead of adhering to the system or even the language of compensation, adopts a wholly different rule. It permits the jury to give what it terms punitory, vindictive, or exemplary damages; in other words, it blends together the interest of society and of the aggrieved individual, and gives damages not only to recompense the sufferer, but to punish the offender." These authors support their respective positions with great ability. But it seems to us that the rule laid down by either is not applicable to the case presented by this record.

Where the defendant is sued for the commission of a tort, such as slander, an offence not the subject of criminal punishment, the rule that gives damages "to punish the offender," may, with some degree of propriety, be applied, because it is the only mode in which, by public example, the various rights in community to personal security and private property can, under the sanction of law, be protected from injury and outrage. In such a case, there is wisdom in permitting a jury to "blend together the interest of society and of the aggrieved individual."

But there is a class of offences, the commission of which, in addition to the civil remedy allowed the injured party, subjects the offender to a state prosecution. To this class the case under consideration belongs; and if the principle of the instruction be correct, Taber may be twice punished for the same assault and battery. This would not accord with the spirit of our institutions. The constitution declares, that "no person shall be twice put in jeopardy for the same offence;" and though that provision may not relate to the remedies secured by civil proceedings, still it serves to illustrate a fundamental principle inculcated by every well-regulated system of government, viz., that each violation of the law should be certainly followed by one appropriate punishment and no more.

The state has undertaken to vindicate her own wrongs; and can there be any valid reason why such vindication should be the result of a suit in favor of a private individual? It matters little to the offender what be the form in which he pays the penalty, so that he pays but once; but the rules of pleading and evidence do not permit a judgment like the present to be set up as a bar to a state prosecution. Hence the defendant still remains liable to be tried and convicted for a public...

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3 cases
  • Brown v. Evans
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Nevada
    • 5 Febrero 1883
    ...damages cannot be recovered in cases of personal torts, where the defendant is liable to a criminal prosecution for the same act. See 5 Ind. 332; 14 Ind. 479; 20 Ind. 192; 4 273. In 53 N.H. 342, the subject is discussed, but not decided. Defendant further insists that the court erred in adm......
  • Skufakiss v. Duray, 12422.
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 9 Diciembre 1926
    ...damages, in addition to damages which would compensate appellee for his loss. The giving of this instruction was error. Taber v. Hutson (1854) 5 Ind. 332, 61 Am. Dec. 96;Humphries v. Johnson (1863) 20 Ind. 190;Wabash Printing, etc., Co. v. Crumrine (1889) 123 Ind. 89, 21 N. E. 904. If appel......
  • Warren v. Carey
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • 28 Noviembre 1854

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