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Frow v. De La Vega

U.S.
Jan 1, 1872
82 U.S. 552 (1872)

Summary

holding that, when defendants may be jointly liable, courts should not enter default judgment against the defaulting defendant alone until the matter has been resolved against all defendants

Summary of this case from Aponte v. Clinton St. Pizza Inc.

Opinion

DECEMBER TERM, 1872.

1. A final decree on the merits cannot be made separately against one of several defendants upon a joint charge against all, where the case is still pending as to the others. 2. If one of several defendants to a bill making a joint charge of conspiracy and fraud, make default, his default and a formal decree pro confesso may be entered, but no final decree on the merits until the case is disposed of with regard to the other defendants. The defaulting defendant is simply out of court and can take no farther part in the cause. 3. If the bill in such case be dismissed on the merits, it will be dismissed as to the defendant in default, as well as the others.

Mr. P. Phillips, for the appellant, argued that it was improper to have granted the prayer against a single defendant whose interests were all bound up with those of the other defendants.

Mr. T.J. Durant, contra, insisted that everything done had been done in accordance with the 18th Rule in Equity, prescribed by this court.


APPEAL from the Circuit Court for the Western District of Texas; the case being thus:

De La Vega filed a bill in the court below against Frow and thirteen other defendants, charging eight of them (including Frow) with a joint conspiracy to defraud him, the complainant, out of a large tract of land in Texas, by the use of a forged power of attorney purporting to be executed by the complainant, and by various conveyances and mesne conveyances, deraigning a false and fraudulent title from him. The defendants, other than Frow, all put in answers to the bill on the merits; but Frow's answer having been delayed (as he insisted, by misunderstanding, sickness, and other accidents), a decree pro confesso was taken against him at September Rules, 1868; and notwithstanding he afterwards prepared his answer and asked leave to file it (being in substance the same as the answers of the other defendants), yet the court afterwards, on the 23d of March, 1870, on application of the complainant, and against the protestation of Frow, made a final decree absolute against him, adjudging the title of the land to be in the complainant, and awarding to him a perpetual injunction as against the appellant. From this decree the present appeal was taken. After this final decree against the appellant, the court proceeded to try the issues made by the answers of the other defendants, and decided the merits of the cause adversely to the complainant and dismissed his bill. This fact was made to appear by the return to a certiorari sued out by De La Vega himself.

The question now was, whether the court in such a case as that mentioned could lawfully make a final decree against one defendant separately, on the merits, whilst the cause was proceeding undetermined against the others.


If the court in such a case as this can lawfully make a final decree against one defendant separately, on the merits, while the cause was proceeding undetermined against the others, then this absurdity might follow: there might be one decree of the court sustaining the charge of joint fraud committed by the defendants; and another decree disaffirming the said charge, and declaring it to be entirely unfounded, and dismissing the complainant's bill. And such an incongruity, it seems, did actually occur in this case. Such a state of things is unseemly and absurd, as well as unauthorized by law.

The true mode of proceeding where a bill makes a joint charge against several defendants, and one of them makes default, is simply to enter a default and a formal decree pro confesso against him, and proceed with the cause upon the answers of the other defendants. The defaulting defendant has merely lost his standing in court. He will not be entitled to service of notices in the cause, nor to appear in it in any way. He can adduce no evidence, he cannot be heard at the final hearing. But if the suit should be decided against the complainant on the merits, the bill will be dismissed as to all the defendants alike — the defaulter as well as the others. If it be decided in the complainant's favor, be will then be entitled to a final decree against all. But a final decree on the merits against the defaulting defendant alone, pending the continuance of the cause, would be incongruous and illegal. This was so expressly decided by the New York Court of Errors, in the case of Clason v. Morris. Spencer, J., says: "It would be unreasonable to hold, that because one defendant had made default, the plaintiff should have a decree even against him, where the court is satisfied from the proofs offered by the other, that in fact the plaintiff is not entitled to a decree."

Page 554 10 Johnson, 524.

See 1 Hoffman's Chancery Practice, 554.

Irregularities, if any occurred in the proceedings after the decree complained of, are not now before us for adjudication.

DECREE REVERSED with costs, and the cause remanded for further proceedings,

IN CONFORMITY WITH THIS OPINION.


Summaries of

Frow v. De La Vega

U.S.
Jan 1, 1872
82 U.S. 552 (1872)

holding that, when defendants may be jointly liable, courts should not enter default judgment against the defaulting defendant alone until the matter has been resolved against all defendants

Summary of this case from Aponte v. Clinton St. Pizza Inc.

holding that default judgment could not be entered against the defaulted defendant where the court had ruled that the plaintiff's legal theory was without merit with respect to co-defendants who engaged in identical transactions and the "central legal issue" in each transaction was the same

Summary of this case from Davidson v. Paige

holding that the default of one defendant cannot be entered before determining the liability of the non-defaulting defendant because the inconsistency of two different judgments against joint defendants would be illogical

Summary of this case from Branch Banking & Tr. Co. v. Women's Health Inst. of Macon, PC

holding that in a multi-defendant case in which defendants are alleged to be jointly liable, the proper course is to postpone decision on a motion for default judgment against one defendant until the case against the other defendants concludes

Summary of this case from Dacas v. Duhaney

holding that where multiple defendants are jointly liable, it would be "incongruous" for judgment to be entered against a defaulting defendant before a decision on the merits as to the remaining defendants

Summary of this case from Leany v. San Diego Steel Holdings Grp., Inc.

holding in a joint liability case that the same resolution of the case should apply to a defaulted party as was applied to the parties that appeared

Summary of this case from Berrios v. Keefe Commissary Network, LLC

holding that, where a joint charge was made against several defendants, judgment should not be entered as to a defaulted defendant until the merit of the claims against the remaining defendants is decided

Summary of this case from Richardson v. Russell

holding that where one of several defendants who is alleged to be jointly liable defaults, judgment should not be entered against the defaulting defendant until the matter has been adjudicated in regard to all the defendants

Summary of this case from Solar Liberty Energy Sys., Inc. v. Suacci

holding that default judgment may not be entered against a defaulting codefendant until after the merits have been decided against the answering codefendants

Summary of this case from Estate of Lomastro v. American Family Ins

reversing default judgment as to property ownership when plaintiff lost as to answering defendants

Summary of this case from U.S. v. New-Form Manufacturing Company, Ltd.

In Frow, a plaintiff alleged several defendants conspired to defraud him out of title to "a large tract of land in Texas."

Summary of this case from Crop Prod. Servs., Inc. v. Keeley (In re Grabanski)

In Frow v. De La Vega, 82 U.S. 552, 554, 21 L.Ed. 60 (1872), the Supreme Court held that it would be “unseemly and absurd, as well as unauthorized by law,” for a default judgment to be entered against one defendant if his codefendants, who were jointly liable, were cleared on the merits.

Summary of this case from VLM Food Trading International, Inc. v. Illinois Trading Co.

In Frow v. De La Vega, 82 U.S. 552, 554, 21 L. Ed. 60 (1872), the United States Supreme Court held that when there are multiple defendants in an action, "a final decree on the merits against the defaulting defendant alone, pending the continuance of the cause, would be incongruous and illegal."

Summary of this case from First Acceptance Ins. Co. v. Rosser

warning against "unseemly and absurd" results that may occur in these circumstances

Summary of this case from Lockner v. Clouse

explaining that a district court should not enter default judgment against one or more defendants when the default judgement is, or is likely to be inconsistent with the judgment on the merits in favor of the answering defendants

Summary of this case from Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Ragone

In Frow, the Supreme Court held that a court may not enter final judgment on the merits "separately against one of several defendants upon a joint charge against all, where the case is still pending as to the others."

Summary of this case from Boyd v. SFS Commc'ns, LLC

In Frow, the Supreme Court stated that "a defaulting defendant has merely lost his standing in court" and that "a final decree on the merits against the defaulting defendant alone, pending the continuance of the cause, would be incongruous and illegal."

Summary of this case from Roche Diagnostics Corp. v. Priority Healthcare Corp.

In Frow v. De La Vega, 82 U.S. 552 (1872), the United States Supreme Court determined that a district court should not enter default judgment against one or more defendants when the default judgment is, or is likely to be, inconsistent with judgment on the merits in favor of the answering defendants.

Summary of this case from Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins. Co. v. McLain

In Frow v. De La Vega, 82 U.S. 552, 554 (1872), the United States Supreme Court held that when there are multiple defendants in an action, "a final decree on the merits against the defaulting defendant alone, pending the continuance of the cause, would be incongruous and illegal."

Summary of this case from Great W. Cas. Ins. Co. v. Burns

stating if a suit is decided on merits against the Plaintiff, the complaint should be dismissed against all defendants, including the defaulting defendants

Summary of this case from Rollason v. ITX, LLC

In Frow, the United States Supreme Court held that where one of several defendants who is alleged to be jointly liable defaults, judgment should not be entered against the defaulting defendant until the matter has been adjudicated in regard to all the defendants.

Summary of this case from Garrison v. Ringgold

suggesting that it would be "incongruous and unfair" for a plaintiff to prevail on a breach of contract claim against a defaulting defendant when a jury in a separate action had concluded that plaintiff had breached the contract

Summary of this case from Gray v. Brown

stating entry of judgment against a defaulting party must await adjudication until liability is determined regarding the party's co-defendants in claims of fraud and conspiracy

Summary of this case from Enslein v. Di Mase

In Frow v. De La Vega, 82 U.S. 552 (1872), the Supreme Court concluded that "when multiple defendants are alleged to be jointly liable and fewer than all defendants default, the district court may not render a liability determination as to the defaulting parties unless and until the remaining defendants are found liable on the merits."

Summary of this case from Lewis v. KC Hopps, Ltd.

warning that "absurdity might follow" in instances where a court "can lawfully make a final decree against one defendant . . . while the cause was proceeding undetermined against the others."

Summary of this case from J.A.J. v. Jimenez
Case details for

Frow v. De La Vega

Case Details

Full title:FROW v . DE LA VEGA

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jan 1, 1872

Citations

82 U.S. 552 (1872)

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