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Pierce v. Jackson

Supreme Court of California
Apr 1, 1863
21 Cal. 636 (Cal. 1863)


[Syllabus Material] [Syllabus Material] [Syllabus Material]          Rehearing Granted 21 Cal. 636 at 641.

         Appeal from the Seventh Judicial District.

         The suit is brought upon a promissory note for $ 5,000, signed " Jackson & McComb," payable to the plaintiff on demand, without grace. The note is dated February 12th, 1861, and the complaint was filed the next day, February 13th.

         McComb made default. The answer of Jackson does not deny that and McComb were partners at the date of the note, but alleges in avoidance that the note was given, not for a partnership debt, but for the individual debt of McComb; that McComb was the agent for Pierce, and in that capacity had the control of moneys of the plaintiff which were loaned to sundry persons on pledges of grain held as collateral security, and that the plaintiff had afterwards sold the grain and appropriated the proceeds, but still retained the notes, and claimed that they were unpaid, and that the promissory note in contest was made to cover the balance alleged to be due to the plaintiff on these transactions, which it avers were not transactions of the firm, but grew entirely out of the dealings between the plaintiff and his agent, McComb. The answer also sets up the circumstances under which the note was made, alleging that it was done privately between plaintiff and McComb, and that Jackson knew nothing of it until after the attachment in this cause was issued, and as a deduction that the plaintiff and McComb had conspired to cheat and defraud him by the execution of the note.

         The replication denies the agency of McComb, and avers that the grain was deposited in the warehouse of Jackson & McComb, and plaintiff held their warehouse receipt for it; that whilst they so held it on storage for the plaintiff they sold a portion of it, and converted the proceeds to their own use without the knowledge or consent of the plaintiff; that they shipped the remainder of it to the plaintiff, at San Francisco, without his knowledge, and without informing him what grain it was, and directed him to sell it for their account, which he did, and accounted to them for the proceeds, which they converted to their own use; that the note in contest was given to cover the amount thus received by Jackson & McComb from the sales of grain stored in their warehouse in the plaintiff's name, and for his account.

         The replication admits that the execution of the note was intentionally concealed from Jackson, not from any fraudulent purpose, but because the plaintiff, knowing the firm to be in failing circumstances, was apprehensive that Jackson might dispose of his property to defeat an attachment.

         On the trial the note was put in evidence, and McComb, under exception of defendant to his competency, was examined as a witness for the plaintiff, and his testimony sustained the allegations of the replication.

         Plaintiff also introduced in evidence the warehouse receipts for the grain, executed in the firm name, and showed that the grain was received and stored in the regular course of the partnership business.

         The defendant introduced witnesses to impeach McComb; and also, to show that the grain was not stored on partnership account, put in evidence the accounts kept with plaintiff, some of which were in the name of McComb alone, and letters addressed by him to plaintiff, showing that some of his (McComb's) transactions were independent of Jackson, and were kept from his knowledge; and also other proof, tending to show collusion between plaintiff and McComb to defraud Jackson.

         As to what was done with the grain after it was stored there was no direct evidence, except that of McComb, who testified that it was sold, and the proceeds applied to the use of the partnership.

         The jury found a verdict for defendant. Plaintiff moved for a new trial, which was denied, and from this order he appeals.


         I. Upon the pleadings and the undisputed facts the judgment should be reversed. First--The defendants were partners in the storage and commission business, and had a warehouse for storage, at Suisun City, at the date of the note sued upon, and at the date of the transactions out of which the note grew. Second--The note was executed and delivered during the existence of the partnership. This is admitted in the answer. Third--The plaintiff had loaned money to sundry persons, whose names are stated in the answer, and as a security for his advances a large amount of grain was pledged to him, which he caused to be stored for his account in the defendants' warehouse, and for which he holds the warehouse receipts, which receipts were produced by him on the trial. Fourth--The grain disappeared from the warehouse, and has been sold by some one. The defendant, Jackson, says it was received and sold by the plaintiff, and that he used the proceeds for his own use.

         The defendant has entirely failed to show in any method that the plaintiff received to his own use a single dollar of the proceeds of the grain. The burden of proof is on him.

         The production of the note made a prima facie case for the plaintiff. In avoidance, the defendant alleges that the note was given to cover an assumed liability of the defendants, because of their alleged conversion of the grain and its proceeds to their own use; whereas, the answer avers the grain and its proceeds were in fact converted by the plaintiff to his own use. The replication denies this, and the defendant has utterly failed to prove it. On the contrary, the only proof in the cause on this point clearly establishes that the defendants converted the proceeds to their own use.

         The case then is this: Defendants were warehousemen, and received on storage for the plaintiff certain grain, for which they issued to him warehouse receeipts, which he still holds; the defendants fraudulently and in violation of their duty sold the grain and used the proceeds; they thereby becameliable to the plaintiff for the value of the grain, and as evidence of this liability, and in consideration of it, one of the partners, during the partnership, executed to the plaintiff, in the name of the firm, the promissory note sued upon.

         The verdict is, therefore, not simply against the weight of evidence, but is wholly unsupported by any evidence, and should be set aside, and a new trial awarded.

         II. A partner clearly has the right to waive grace upon a note made by him in the firm name. There is no force in the objection that the suit was prematurely brought.

         III. Whether McComb was a competent witness is immaterial for the purposes of this appeal. (McCloud v. O'Neal , 16 Cal. 392.)

         Crockett & Crittenden, for Appellant.

          John Currey, for Respondent.

         I. The defendant McComb who had made default, was interested in the event of the action against his co-defendant, and was an incompetent witness for plaintiff. (Washburn v. Alden , 5 Cal. 463; Easterly v. Basignano , 20 Id. 489; Lucas v. Payne , 7 Id. 92, 96; Gates v. Nash , 6 Id. 194; Pr. Act, secs. 392, 393; 1 Greenl. Ev. secs. 390, 391; Jones v. Post , 4 Cal. 14.)

         II. The action on the note in question was prematurelycommenced.

         One partner of a firm such as that of Jackson & McComb, when dealing with a person knowing the character of the business of such firm, has not the authority, by reason of his partnership relation, to waive the commercial days of grace incident to a promissory note. Before McComb could waive the days of grace which the law of the land gave to Jackson & McComb, as the makers of a promissory note, it must appear that he had express authority from Jackson so to do, or that it had been the practice of such firm thus to do, to a degree from which the necessary authority could justly be inferred. In this case no such authority, express or implied, was proved, and therefore it must be presumed none existed.

         III. The verdict and judgment rendered in the case were not only warranted, but were demanded by the evidence.

         A Court is not authorized to set aside a verdict of a jury because they find otherwise than the Court would have found. This is the rule laid down by many authorities. (See 3 Graham & Waterman on New Trials, 1283, etc.)

         The jury had the right and was in duty bound to decide upon the credibility of the witnesses, and having decided against the credibilityof McComb, their verdict is conclusive. (3 Graham & Waterman on New Trials, 1261-1283; Carstairs v. Stein, 4 Maule & Selwyn, 192; Dickson v. Parker, 3 How. [Miss.] 219; Eaton v. Burton, 2 Hill, 578; Winchell v. Latham, 6 Cow. 682; Fleming v. Hollenback, 7 Barb. 275; cases cited in 3 Graham & Waterman on New Trials, 1241-1256; 3 Hill, 251; Spect v. Hoyt , 3 Cal. 420; Bartlett v. Hogden, Id. 59; Drake v. Palmer , 2 Id. 182; Duell v. B. R. and A. Mining Co. , 5 Id. 85.)

         JUDGES: Cope, J. delivered the opinion of the Court. Field, C. J. concurring.


          COPE, Judge

         On application by respondent for a modification of the judgment. Per Cope, J. Field, C. J. concurring.

         The petition in this case does not ask a rehearing, but a modification of the judgment, so as to allow the defendant, Jackson, to amend his answer in certain particulars. The Court below, independent of any direction on our part, has full power to allow the amendment, but there is no impropriety in giving the direction, and we shall therefore do so. The costs in the case will abide the event of a new trial.

Summaries of

Pierce v. Jackson

Supreme Court of California
Apr 1, 1863
21 Cal. 636 (Cal. 1863)
Case details for

Pierce v. Jackson

Case Details

Full title:PIERCE v. JACKSON

Court:Supreme Court of California

Date published: Apr 1, 1863


21 Cal. 636 (Cal. 1863)

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