« AnteriorContinuar »
Opinion of the Court.
been frequently ruled by this court that a receipt in full must be regarded as an acquittance in bar of any further demand in the absence of any allegation and evidence that it was given in ignorance of its purport, or in circumstances constituting duress, fraud or mistake. De Arnaud v. United States, 151 U. S. 483; United States v. Garlinger, 169 U. S. 316, 322; United States v. Adams, 7 Wall. 463; United States v. Child, 12 Wall. 232; United States v. Justice, 14 Wall. 535; Baker v. Nachtrieb, 19 How. 126.
The general principle applicable to settlements was thus expressed by Mr. Justice Clifford, in Hagar v. Thomson, 1 Black, 80, 93: “Much the largest number of controversies between business men are ultimately settled by the parties themselves; and when there is no unfairness, and all the facts are equally known to both sides, an adjustment by them is final and conclusive. Oftentimes a party may be willing to yield something for the sake of a settlement; and if he does so with a full knowledge of the circumstances, he cannot affirm the settlement, and afterwards maintain a suit for that which he voluntarily surrendered.”
But apart from the controversy over the two items of $40,000 and $9558.63, which was composed by the release, there was an item of $34,558.90 credited to Clark in the final account, the allowance of which, the company contends, furnished ample consideration therefor, although the adequacy of the consideration is not, in such cases, open to inquiry.
The referee found: “That no other final settlement of the accounts under said contracts had been had between the plaintiff and the defendant at the time the said last-mentioned paper was signed and delivered.” “ That no account was ever, otherwise than by said paper and the receipt of said money, stated of the transactions under and connected with said contract between the plaintiff and the defendant;" and also as a conclusion : “That no account of the transactions under this contract, and of the claims sued on in this action, was ever had or stated between the parties to this action, otherwise than by said receipt or paper of March 9, 1888.” The release in question allowed to Clark, that is, debited the company with, the sum of $34,598.90,
Opinion of the Court.
“ for materials sold by him to said company, and certain rebates and matters of that description;" and charged Clark, that is, credited the company, with $40,000 by way of forfeiture, and $9558.63 for nut locks. It was in this respect, in effect, a statement of cross-demands. The $40,000 was specifically described and the $9558.63 was included in the total credits stated.
That this contractor, carrying on the work of building two hundred miles of railroad, and receiving payments on vouchers from time to time, must have been aware from his own books and papers that the $9558.63 was thus included, can hardly be reasonably denied, especially as he had objected to being charged with it. Indeed we do not understand that there is any suggestion that Clark was ignorant of any part of the account.
As to the $34,558.90, it appears from the contract, and final certificate and estimate, which are set forth in the principal or additional findings, that this item represented na part of the work specified under the contract, nor extra work, nor materials ordered by the company, and that it was not included in the contract or in the certificate and final estimate.
As was said by Lacombe, J., who delivered the principal opinion below : “Indeed it is plain to a demonstration from the findings, that the item in question was not included either in the original contract or in the extra work, and must represent an additional and independent contract of sale.” And the learned judge further said: “From what has been said before, it is plain that, if at the time of the transactions relied upon as showing an accord and satisfaction, this sum of $34,598.90 so allowed to claimant represented an unliquidated item, the amount of which he would have to establish by evidence in case he had sued to recover it, its allowance to bim upon the settlement of March 9, 1888, would be a sufficient consideration to uphold that settlement against him as an accord and satisfaction of all his claims." There was no finding that this amount had ever been agreed upon or liquidated by the parties in a manner that would have entitled Clark to have recovered the amount from the company as an independent item, otherwise than by the statement of it in the account preceding, and which formed a part of the receipt and acknowledgment of satisfac
Opinion of the Court.
tion which Clark executed and delivered to the company March 9, 1888. Nor was there any finding showing, or tending to show, that the company would have placed that sum to Clark's credit except as an itein in an account which credited the company with the two charges for nut locks and forfeiture.
But the Circuit Court of Appeals held that because of the fourteenth finding of fact, it must be assumed that the referee was satisfied from the testimony, though he did not so find in terms, that the prior transactions between the parties were such that this sum of $34,558.90 was as much liquidated as was the sum of $3,895,798.79, to which the Chief Engineer had certified. Judge Lacombe said, referring to this particular item and to the fourteenth finding of fact: “By what process it was so liquidated does not appear in the findings. We must take his finding, therefore, as conclusive upon the question, and assume that either by an agreement for price in advance, or subsequently by entering into some binding agreement as to the sum to be paid, the defendant had lost the right to throw the plaintiff into court as to that item.”
The fourteenth finding of fact was “that said receipt and paper contain a correct, truthful and undisputed account of all dealings between said parties except in the matter of the $40,000 deducted for time forfeiture, the $9558.63 for nut locks embraced in the $3,626,865.20, and the lumber hereinafter referred to, and herein valued at $2425.” If this finding means that the statement of account was incorrect, untruthful and disputed as to the two items, it does not affirmatively say so, and if construed as amounting to that, it was not found that Clark did not have full knowledge thereof at the time he received the money and made the settlement. If it means that the statement of account as to these items was disputed, then the contention is a reasonable one that such dispute was a sufficient consideration to support the settlement in its entirety. But we must decline to accept the view that because of this finding it should be assumed, without any finding to that effect, that there had been prior transactions between Clark and the company, by which the item of $34,558.90 was liquidated, for it is explicitly declared by the referee that no account of the transactions
Opinion of the Court.
under the contract, and of the claims sued on in this action, was ever had or stated between the parties, otherwise than by the paper of March 9, 1888. The value of the materials, rebates and other matters covered by this item may not have been disputed, but it did not follow that the company was obliged to purchase the materials or to allow the rebates, or that the amount thereof had been previously agreed to; nor that liability therefor might not have been contested if Clark bad declined to sign the proposed acknowledgment of satisfaction. We must remember that Clark knew all about the account; he knew what the company claimed, and what he claimed, yet he accepted the check and signed the release without even a protest.
The word “liquidated " is used in different senses, and as applicable here means made certain as to what and how much is due; made certain by agreement of parties or by operation of law. We are of opinion that it would be going altogether too far to treat the fourteenth finding, segregated from the others, as equivalent to a determination that the $34,558.90 bad been liquidated independently of the whole account as stated.
And, on the face of the findings, we think the credit in Clark's favor, taken in connection with the credits in the company's favor, put this adjustment beyond the reach of this belated attempt to overhaul it, and that Clark was barred by his release from recovering in this action the $40,000 and the $9558.63, as having been improperly deducted.
As to the sum of $2425, that was the amount of a claim arising after the release was signed, and not included within it. There was some evidence tending to sustain the findings of the referee in support of this item, and we agree with the Circuit Court of Appeals that no error was committed in the matter of amending the complaint, and in holding that a recovery could be had for this amount under the complaint as amended.
The judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is reversed, with costs; the judgment of the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York is also reversed, and the cause remanded to the latter court, with a direction to enter judgment in favor of plaintiff and against defendant, for
$2125, with interest from June 30, 1888, less the sum of $521.78, with interest from the same date; the costs of the Circuit Court of Appeals to be paid by defendant in error therein; and the costs in the Circuit Court to be adjusted as to that court may seem just under the circumstances.
MOFFETT, HODGKINS AND CLARKE COMPANY
CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.
No. 217. Argued April 10, 11, 1900.-Decided May 21, 1900.
The city of Rochester invited proposals from contractors for two separate
contracts for work to be done for the improvement of its water works. Among others who bid were the petitioners, the Moffett, etc. Company, who put in bids for each. Owing to causes which are set forth in full in the opinion of the court, some serious mistakes were made in the figures in their proposals, whereby the compensation that they would receive if their bids were accepted and the work performed by them would be diminished many thousand dollars. When the bids were oponed by the city government their bids were the first opened, and as they were read aloud their engineer noticed the errors and called attention to them and stated what the figures were intended to be and should be. The statutes of New York provided that “neither the principal nor sureties on any bid or bond shall bave the right to withdraw or cancel the same until the board shall have let the contract for which such bid is made and the same shall have been duly executed." The city government rejected one of their bids and accepted the other, and called for its performance at the prices stated in the bid. The company declined to enter into a contract for the performance of the work at that price; and, claiming that the city threatened to enforce the bond given with the proposals, brought suit praying for a reformation of the proposals to conform to the asserted intention in making them and their execution as reformed, or their rescission; and for an injunction against the officers of the city, restraining them from declaring the complainant in default, and from forfeiting or enforcing its bond. Judgment was rendered in the Circuit Court in the company's favor, which was reversed in the Circuit Court of Appoals. The case was then brought here on certiorari. Held: