In Bitter Root, the United States sought relief in equity after millions of feet of timber were allegedly removed and sold by means of an involved conspiracy.Summary of this case from Zenith Radio Corp. v. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
Argued January 8, 9, 1906. Decided February 19, 1906.
Notwithstanding averments in the bill of fraud, conspiracy and violation of trust, if the action is really one of trespass or trover to recover damages for wrongful cutting and conversion of timber from complainant's lands, and there is no question of defendant's financial responsibility, and the recovery of a money judgment and not of specific property is sought, complainant's remedy at law is adequate and equity has no jurisdiction; nor can equity take jurisdiction merely because of the difficulty of proving the case on account of various devices alleged to have been used by defendants, or because the principal defendant is an executor of a party, whose estate is solvent, alleged to have been the chief wrongdoer. Complainant, in an action at law of this nature, is entitled to the same inspection of books and papers that he could have in a suit in equity. The holder of permits to cut timber from certain specified government lands, who wilfully and fraudulently cuts from other lands, is not a trustee ex maleficio as to timber wrongfully cut, but a mere trespasser and liable for damages in action at law, and equity has no jurisdiction either on the ground of trusteeship or accounting. This court cannot take judicial notice of the contents of permits to cut timber which are issued in different forms and subject to the discretion of the Department giving them. Prevention of multiplicity of suits is not a ground for equity jurisdiction if all persons must be made parties, whether the suit be at law or in equity, and where a class does not exist of which a few can be made defendants as representatives thereof.
"21. Your orator further shows that the said Margaret P. Daly, under and by virtue of the terms of said will and, as the wife of said Marcus Daly, is now the owner of a large portion of his estate. "In consideration whereof, and forasmuch as your orator is, for the reasons stated, remediless in the premises at and by the strict rule of the common law, and is only relievable in a court of equity where matters of this kind are properly cognizable and relievable, to the end that your orator may have that relief which it can only obtain in a court of equity; and that each one of the defendants above named may answer the premises, but not upon oath or affirmation, the benefit whereof is expressly waived by your orator, your orator prays the court as follows: "First. That the defendant, Margaret P. Daly; both in her own person, and as executrix of the last will and testament of her husband, Marcus Daly, deceased, and each of the defendants above named, be decreed to hold in trust for the use and benefit of your orator so much of their estate, both real and personal, as shall have come to them, or either of them, directly from the proceeds of the conversion of the timber of your orator, as aforesaid. "Second. That the complainant have and recover from Margaret P. Daly, both personally and as executrix, and from each of the other defendants above named, the profits, gains and advantages which the said defendants, or either of them, have received or made or which have arisen or accrued to them, or either of them, by reason of the willful trespasses upon the public domain of your orator, hereinbefore particularly described, and by reason of the fraudulent conversion of the trees and timber growing thereon, the logs had therefrom, and the lumber manufactured from the same. "Third. That each of the defendants may make a full and true discovery and disclosure of and concerning the transactions and matters aforesaid, and that an accounting may be taken by and under the direction and decree of this honorable court of all the dealings and transactions between your orator and the defendants. That on such accounting the defendants and each of them be required to produce all licenses, permits, and all other documents of every kind and character which they, or any of them, may have received from your orator, by which they, or any of them, claim, or claimed, the right to enter upon any of said lands of your orator and cut and remove the trees and timber then growing thereon."Fourth. That the defendants and each of them account for the number of logs received by them and manufactured into lumber at the sawmill at Hamilton, in said district, or at any other mill or mills owned or used by them in the manufacture of said logs into lumber, and also the gains, profits, and advantages which the said defendants, or either of them, or the estate of said Marcus Daly, have received or made, or which have arisen or accrued to them, or either of them, from trespassing upon the lands of the complainant, above described and set forth, and in converting to their own use and benefit the trees and timber growing thereon. "Fifth. That the said defendants and each of them discover and set forth full, true, and particular accounts of all and every sum or sums of money received by them, or either of them, or by any person or persons by their, or either of their, order, or for their, or either of their, use, for or in respect of the said sale or sales of logs cut from said lands of said complainant, or the lumber obtained from said logs, and when and from whom each and every of such sums were, respectively, received, and how the same, respectively, have been applied or disposed of, and to show when and where the proceeds of said sales were invested by each of said defendants, and in what form of real or personal estate they now exist. "Sixth. That the defendants, and each of them, may set forth a list or schedule and description of all books or account of every kind and character, and of all deeds, documents, letters, papers, or writings of every kind whatsoever relating to the matters aforesaid, or any of them, wherein or whereupon there is any note, memorandum, or writing relating in any manner thereto, which are now or ever were in their, or either of their, possession or power, and more particularly described, which now are in their, or either of their, possession or power, and may deposit the same with the clerk of this court or with the standing master in chancery thereof for the purposes of inspection and examination by your orator, and for all other legitimate and usual purposes, in order that your orator may ascertain therefrom and thereby the particular facts and circumstances, which is absolutely necessary in order to enable your orator to obtain possession and knowledge of the details of this conspiracy; and that when such accounting shall be made, and it shall be ascertained that said defendants have received and taken into their possession money or other forms of property directly resulting from their participation in the conspiracy aforesaid, and in the spoliation of the lands of your orator as aforesaid, that this court shall decree that they pay the amount thereof, with interest from the date they so received the same, to your orator, with costs of this suit, and that your orator may have such other and further relief in the premises as the nature and the circumstances of this case may require and as may be agreeable to equity and good conscience."May it please the court to grant to your orator a writ of subpoena to be directed to the said Margaret P. Daly; Margaret P. Daly, as executrix of the last will and testament of Marcus Daly, deceased; Bitter Root Development Company, Anaconda Mining Company, Anaconda Copper Company, Anaconda Copper Mining Company, John R. Toole, William W. Dixon, William Scallon, Daniel J. Hennessy, thereby commanding them, and each of them, at a certain time, and under a certain penalty to be fixed, personally to appear before this honorable court, and then and there full, true, direct, and perfect answer to make to all and singular the premises, and to stand to, perform, and abide by such order, direction, and decree as may be made against them in the premises, as shall be meet and agreeable to equity, and your orator will ever pray."
Mr. Marsden C. Burch, and Mr. Fred A. Maynard, Special Assistants to the Attorney General, with whom The Solicitor General was on the brief, for the United States:
The fundamental source of equity jurisdiction lies in the fraud which raises the constructive trust, but out of the situation naturally grows other remedial elements of jurisdiction of a court of equity, as discovery, accounting, settlement of an estate, prevention of multiplicity of suits, and the inadequacy of remedies at law.
The remedy at law, in order to exclude a concurrent remedy in equity, must be as complete, practicable, and efficient to the ends of justice and its prompt administration as the remedy in equity. Boyce's Executors v. Grundy, 3 Peters, 215; Kilbourn v. Sunderland, 130 U.S. 514; Walla Walla Water Case, 172 U.S. 112.
The application of this principle depends on the circumstances of each case. If the remedy at law be doubtful, a court of equity will not decline cognizance of the suit. Watson v. Sutherland, 5 Wall. 74; Payne v. Hook, 7 Wall. 425; Davis v. Wakelee, 156 U.S. 680, 688; Bank of Kentucky v. Stone, 88 F. 391.
The mere fact that a legal remedy does exist is not a sufficient objection to resorting to the more convenient remedy in equity. 1 Cyc. of Law and Procedure, 421, and cases cited; Russell v. Clark's Executors, 7 Cr. 69, 89; Wylie v. Coxe, 15 How. 415, 420; Jones v. Bolles, 9 Wall. 364, 369; Oelrichs v. Spain, 15 Wall. 228.
As to the doctrine of constructive trust, by which one who has been defrauded of his property is treated in equity as a constructive cestui que trust and has the right to follow the property of which he has been defrauded into any form it may assume while in the hands of a party to the fraud, and to claim not only the trust res and its avails, but also any increase in value by reason of its transmutation of form, see McMullen Lumber Company v. Strother, 136 F. 295, 305; Perry on Trusts, 5th ed., § 166; American Sugar Refining Co. v. Fancher, 145 N.Y. 552; Newton v. Porter, 5 Lansing, 416; S.C., 69 N.Y. 133.
Equity only stops the pursuit when the means of ascertainment fails, or the rights of bona fide purchasers for value, without notice of the trust, have intervened. The relief can be adapted to the circumstances of the case, so as to protect the interests and rights of the true owner. Lane v. Dighton, Ambler, 409; Mansell v. Mansell, 2 P. Wms. 679; Lench v. Lench, 10 Ves. 511; Lewis v. Madocks, 17 Ves. 49; Perry on Trusts, § 829; Story's Eq., § 1258.
The aid of equity is not to be denied where a case is otherwise made simply because the defendant may be solvent, and simply because at the time the bill is filed the complainant may not have exact information as to the particular property sought to be charged. Angle v. Chicago, St. Paul c. Railway, 151 U.S. 1; Clews v. Jamieson, 182 U.S. 461; Pomeroy's Eq. Jur., § 158.
The aid of equity may be invoked by reason of the fraud, misrepresentations and concealments practiced by the defendants. Equity has always had jurisdiction of fraud, misrepresentation and concealment and it does not depend upon discovery. Jones v. Bolles, 9 Wall. 369.
When an account cannot be justly and fairly taken at law, equity has always had jurisdiction. Weymouth v. Boyer, 1 Ves. Jr. 424; Fowle v. Lawrason's Executors, 5 Pet. 495; Kilbourn v. Sunderland, 130 U.S. 505, 515; 1 Story Eq. Jur. §§ 450-495; Pomeroy's Eq. Jur. § 1421; Kirby v. Lake Shore Ry., 120 U.S. 130, 134. See also Fenno v. Primrose, 116 F. 49; McMullen Lumber Co. v. Strother, 136 F. 295.
The jurisdiction in equity should also be maintained to avoid a multiplicity of suits. Bailey v. Tillinghast, 99 F. 801; DeForest v. Thompson, 40 F. 375.
Where the bill is filed for the purpose of obtaining final relief, and where discovery is only incidental to that end, there can be no demurrer to the discovery only, for the reason that if the discovery be material in support of the relief, and the complainants be entitled to the relief, the defendants must answer. Ex parte Boyd, 105 U.S. 647; Brown v. McDonald, 133 F. 897; McMullen Lumber Co. v. Strother, 136 F. 301; Bates Fed. Eq. Pro., pp. 128-130; Gas Company v. Indianapolis, 90 F. 197; Rider v. Bateman, 93 F. 31; Adams Eq. Jur., American ed., p. 444.
The examination of the officers of the defendant corporations as witnesses can in no event be the exact equivalent of a discovery by the corporations themselves under their corporate seals. Bank v. Heilman, 66 F. 184; Pom. Eq. Jur. § 199; Evans v. Lancaster, 64 F. 626; McClaskey v. Barr, 40 F. 559.
A court of equity will give effect to a demand against the estate of a deceased person in respect of a wrongful act done by him if the wrongful act has resulted in a benefit capable of being measured pecuniarily, if the demand is of such a nature as can be properly entertained by the court. Bishop of Winchester v. Knight, 1 P. Wms. 406; Garth v. Cotton, 1 Dickens, 183; Marquis of Lansdowne v. Marchioness Dowager of Lansdowne, 1 Madd. 116; Phillipps v. Homfray, 24 Ch. D. 439; Lee v. Alston, 1 Br. C.C. 194; Monypenney v. Bristow, 2 Russ. M. 117; Kennedy v. Creswell, 101 U.S. 641, 645; Pomeroy Eq. Jur. § 156; Beverly v. Rhodes, 86 Va. 416.
A creditor not a citizen of the State of the decedent and his representative can proceed in the United States court against such representative to establish his claim therein by judgment or decree against the representative, but where the estate is being administered in a probate court, the Federal court, after adjudicating the claim, must remit the complainant to that court for distribution. Byers v. McAuley, 149 U.S. 608. See also Martin v. Fort, C.C.A. 83 F. 19, 22; Wickham v. Hull, 60 F. 329; Hale v. Tyler, 115 F. 838; Walker v. Brown, 165 U.S. 655.
Mr. L.O. Evans, with whom Mr. A.J. Campbell, Mr. A.J. Shores, Mr. C.F. Kelley and Mr. John F. Forbis were on the brief, for appellees:
The complainant has a full, complete and adequate remedy at law in an action for damages. From the bill, and as claimed by appellant's counsel in the lower court, the inadequacy of the legal remedy consists only of the trouble and difficulty of unraveling before a jury the methods adopted by the appellees in creating corporations, transferring their property from one to the other, and in various other ways seeking to cover up their tracks; and that these devices could only be brought to light through an inspection of the books and records of the corporations, the contention of appellant being that it would not be so difficult to obtain and produce such complicated evidence in a suit in equity.
It is not a case where it is necessary to bring in a large number of defendants in order to adjust their rights among themselves as well as complainant's rights as to each of them. Under the allegations of this bill the defendants have no claims to be adjusted as between themselves. Under the bill they were wrongful trespassers, each and all of them, and each directly responsible for the injuries sustained.
These allegations do not lay the foundation for equitable relief. The remedy is at law. Buzard v. Houston, 119 U.S. 347; Insurance Co. v. Bailey, 13 Wall. 616; Dowell v. Mitchell, 105 U.S. 430; Parkersburg v. Brown, 106 U.S. 500; Amber v. Choteau, 107 U.S. 586; Litchfield v. Ballou, 114 U.S. 190; Root v. Railway Co., 105 U.S. 189; Thompson v. Allen County, 115 U.S. 550; Texas Pac. Ry. Co. v. Marshall, 136 U.S. 393; Hipp v. Babin, 19 How. 278; Dumont v. Fry, 12 F. 21; White v. Boyce, 21 F. 228; Alger v. Anderson, 92 F. 696; Pomeroy on Equity Jurisprudence, 2d ed., vol. 1, § 178; Foster's Fed. Prac. § 12; Bates' Fed. Eq. Prac. § 188.
The complainant, presenting only an unliquidated claim for damages, has no standing in a court of equity. Before a party can come into a court of equity and seek relief he must reduce his claim, whether it be for unliquidated damages or upon contract, to judgment. In other words, his right to a recovery at all, whether it be in damages, for tort or a recovery upon contract, is a legal right, and one triable by jury. And this right must be determined, and a judgment entered before he can seek the interposition of equity. Swan Land and Cattle Co. v. Frank, 148 U.S. 603; Cates v. Allen, 149 U.S. 451; Scott v. Neeley, 140 U.S. 106.
Equity will follow and declare a trust in the property for the benefit of the real owner, where money or other property has been misapplied, only in cases where the misapplication or misappropriation has been done by parties standing in some fiduciary relation to the wronged party. 1 Perry on Trusts, 5th ed., § 128, p. 170, and cases cited; Hawthorn v. Brown, 3 Sneed (Tenn.), 462.
A bill for discovery alone cannot be maintained, and where the case is for relief and discovery, if the facts stated are insufficient to entitle the complainant to relief, the discovery must fail also. Preston v. Smith, 26 F. 885; Venner v. Atchison, T. S.F.R. Co., 28 F. 581; Everson v. Equitable Life Assur. Co., 68 F. 258, aff'd 71 F. 570; Cecil Nat. Bank v. Thurber, 59 F. 913; McLanahan v. Davis, 8 How. 170.
No equity jurisdiction arises by reason of the fact that Margaret P. Daly, appellee, is sued as executrix of the estate of Marcus Daly. Even a creditor of an estate is not such a cestui que trust of the executrix as will enable him to maintain a bill in equity against the administrator for the establishing and payment of his claim, merely on the ground of trust relation, in the absence of charges of fraud, maladministration or nonadministration, on the part of the executrix. Walker v. Brown, 58 F. 23, aff'd 63 F. 204.
There is no relation between the complainant and the defendants, or any of them, which would support an action for accounting. The defendants are charged in the bill as joint tort feasors. Complainant's action upon the facts alleged is for trespass and conversion or trover. To maintain an action for accounting there must be between the parties either a privity, by contract or consent, or a privity in law. Against a defeasor or mere wrongdoer no action for accounting will lie. The fact that the controversy embraces a series of torts, each of which would have to be proven by separate and distinct evidence, would not alter the nature of the case. Whitwell v. Willard, 1 Met. (Mass.) 216; Stringham v. Winnebago County, 24 Wis. 594; Conklin v. Busch, 8 Pa. 514; Brinsmaid v. Mayo, 9 Vt. 30.
Complainant is not entitled to discovery under the allegations of the bill of complaint.
Since the adoption of § 858 et seq., Rev. Stat., the parties having full remedy in the law action, and there being no necessity for a recourse to equity, the courts of chancery, and particularly the Federal courts have clearly established the doctrine that a bill for discovery alone cannot be maintained. Safford v. Ensign Mfg. Co., 120 F. 480; Brown v. Swan, 10 Pet. (U.S.) 497; Rindskoff v. Platto, 29 F. 130; Preston v. Smith, 26 F. 885; United States v. McLaughlin, 24 F. 823; Ex parte Boyd, 105 U.S. 647; Paton v. Majors, 46 F. 210; Field v. Hastings Bradley Co., 65 F. 279; Home Ins. Co. v. Stanchfield, 1 Dillon, 420; Fed. Case No. 6660.
The bill is so general, uncertain and indefinite that it presents no grounds for relief or discovery in equity. It must state clearly and precisely the facts essential to make out its cause. Story Eq. Pl. §§ 253, 257; Tillinghast v. Chase, 121 F. 435.
Although there is a liberal use in the bill in this case of averments in regard to fraud, conspiracy and violation of trust, of which the pleader avers the defendants have been guilty, in various ways, yet upon a careful examination of the pleading itself, and the actual facts therein stated, we concur in the view of the courts below, that the action is really nothing but an action of trespass or trover to recover damages sustained by the complainant by reason of the wrongful cutting, carrying away and conversion of the property of the complainant, consisting of the timber on the land mentioned in the bill; and for the wrong thus done we think it clear that the complainant has a plain, adequate and complete remedy at law, and consequently the court has no jurisdiction of this bill in equity.
It is not necessary to cite many authorities for the proposition that where the main cause of action is of a legal nature, equity has no jurisdiction, provided the complainant has a full and adequate remedy at law for the wrongs complained of. Buzard v. Houston, 119 U.S. 347; Scott v. Neely, 140 U.S. 106, 110. A mere charge of fraud does not give equity jurisdiction. Buzard v. Houston, supra; Ambler v. Choteau, 107 U.S. 586; Safford v. Ensign Manufacturing Co., 120 F. 480, and cases cited in opinion. Tyler v. Savage 143 U.S. 79, bears no resemblance to the case at bar. As the court there said, there were in the case discovery, account, fraud, misrepresentation and concealment. There was no demurrer for multifariousness, and no objection in the court below for want of equity, and the case was not one of a plain defect in equity jurisdiction. The suit was clearly one for equitable relief.
The principal ground upon which it is claimed that the remedy at law is inadequate is really nothing more than a difficulty in proving the case against the defendants. The bill shows that whatever was done in the way of cutting the timber and carrying it away was done by the defendants as tort feasors, and the various devices alleged to have been resorted to by the deceased, Daly, by way of organizing different corporations, in order to, as alleged, cover up his tracks and to render it more difficult for the complainant to make proof of his action, does not in the least tend to give a court of equity jurisdiction on that account. It is simply a question of evidence to show who did the wrong, and upon that point the fact could be ascertained as readily at law as in equity.
The complainant is entitled in an action at law to an inspection of the books and records of these various corporations, and it has the same power to obtain the facts therefrom in that action as it would have in this suit in equity.
The complainant contends that where property has been stolen, or obtained by fraud, equity recognizes the law to be that the property always belongs to the true owner, and therefore its proceeds must also belong to him and may be reclaimed in a suit in equity against the voluntary assignee or one holding in bad faith. The cases of Newton v. Porter, 69 N.Y. 133, and American Sugar Refining Co. v. Fancher, 145 N.Y. 552, are cited to sustain the contention. These cases, it will be seen upon examination, show that the plaintiff had no remedy at law, and he was able to fully identify the particular property into which the original property belonging to him had been converted, and which was in the hands of a voluntary assignee. It was a question of following the proceeds, and accurately and certainly identifying them, which the court held was necessary in order to permit of such following. The defendants were also insolvent. The case of Angle v. Chicago, St. Paul c. Railway Co., 151 U.S. 1, did not involve any question like the one herein. In that case the land had been granted to the Portage Company by the State for the purposes named, and it was conceded by the demurrer that the officials of the Portage Company had been bribed by the Omaha Company to betray their trust, and the legislature had been induced by false allegations to revoke the grant to the Portage Company and to bestow it upon the Omaha Company. The plaintiff had obtained a judgment against the Portage Company in an action at law, and the execution had been returned nulla bona, and the bill in equity was filed in the Circuit Court of the United States by the administratrix of the judgment creditor against the Omaha Company to reach the land formerly owned by the Portage Company and then in the hands of the Omaha Company by reason of its own wrongdoing. Thus there was the illegal and wrongful act of the Omaha Company, by which the land once vesting in the Portage Company had been taken away and that same land regranted to the Omaha Company, and it was to reach that particular land which the Omaha Company had obtained by its wrongful act that the bill was filed. Mr. Justice Brewer, delivering the opinion of this court, said:
"And when the Omaha Company, by its wrongdoings, secured the full legal title to those lands, equity will hold that the party who has been deprived of payment for his work from the Portage Company, by reason of their having been taken away from it, shall be able to pursue those lands into the hands of the wrongdoer, and hold them for the payment of that claim which, but for the wrongdoings of the Omaha Company, would have been paid by the Portage Company, partially at least, out of their proceeds. While no express trust is affirmed as to the lands, yet it is familiar doctrine that a party who acquires title to property wrongfully may be adjudged a trustee ex maleficio in respect to that property."
These lands were identified, and were found in the hands of the actual wrongdoer, who had acquired them by reason of such wrong.
Now, there is no pretense in this case that any specific piece of property was in fact either the same timber or the proceeds of the timber wrongfully cut and disposed of by the defendants, or any of them. Nor was it averred that any particular timber had been taken from the land described in the bill. On the contrary, it is alleged in the bill that the complainant was unable to show just when or by whom the cutting had been performed, or the logs manufactured into lumber had been sold, or just when and by whom the proceeds thereof were obtained and when the same were divided. There is a general allegation in the bill of complaint that the deceased, Daly, left an estate worth $12,000,000, located in the State of Montana and elsewhere, and that a large portion of that estate was the result of the proceeds of Daly's illegal acts in his lifetime, in trespassing upon the lands of the complainant, and converting the proceeds of the sale of the timber growing thereon to his own use and benefit. It is also averred that he made his will, appointing Margaret P. Daly, defendant, executrix; and the will was duly admitted to probate, and letters of administration were duly issued to the defendant, Margaret P. Daly, on the fifteenth day of February, A.D. 1901, and she duly qualified and entered upon the discharge of her duties as such executrix; that Margaret P. Daly, under and by virtue of the terms of the will, and as the wife of Marcus Daly, is the owner of a large portion of his estate. It is plain that such allegations fall far short of even a pretense of identifying specific, definite property as the proceeds of certain other property wrongfully or fraudulently taken by defendants from the lands described in the bill. Such allegations are totally inadequate for that purpose.
Under the law providing for the examination of defendants, and under section 724 of the Revised Statutes, providing for the production of books and writings in actions at law, under the same circumstances that defendants might be compelled to produce them under the ordinary rules of proceeding in chancery, there is nothing in these allegations, which shows any necessity for a discovery in equity, such as would render the remedy more adequate therein than in an action at law.
Nor was there anything in the cases cited by complainant as showing a right to proceed in equity because one of the defendants is the executrix of a deceased person, who, it is alleged, was one of the parties guilty of the wrongdoing set forth in the bill. Upon the question of liability she is entitled to a trial at law and by jury, as well as the other defendants. In Green's Administratrix v. Creighton, 23 How. 90, it was said that a single creditor has been allowed to sue an administratrix for his demand in equity, and obtain decree for payment out of the personal estate, without taking a general account of the testator's debts. In that case the facts were complicated; the original debtor and his surety were dead, and had died insolvent, and a portion of the assets of the estate of the latter could be traced to the possession of his administratrix, and the authority of a court of equity was required to call for a discovery of the nature and amount of the assets in hand. It was said that the debtor, Tunstall, had died insolvent, and Whiting, his surety, had also died insolvent. A portion of the assets belonging to the estate of the latter was in the hands of the surety of this administrator. A discovery of the nature and amount of the assets in hand was necessary if they were subject to the application, and it was held that the Circuit Court was authorized to entertain the suit, and the decree dismissing the bill was reversed. Certainly there is nothing in that case which in the least degree aids the proposition that because there is an administratrix named as a party, equity has jurisdiction, even though no discovery of assets is sought, and the bill shows that the estate represented by the administratrix is largely solvent, and the demand is for unliquidated damages against others besides the administratrix, and no debt is admitted, the alleged cause of action having arisen against the deceased, among others, for a tort.
In Kennedy v. Creswell, 101 U.S. 641, it was held that the creditor of a deceased person had a right to go into a court of equity for a discovery of assets and the payment of his debt, and that when there he would not be turned back to a court of law, to establish the validity of his claim. The basis of getting into a court of equity being a discovery of assets, the object of the bill was obtained, as the court held, by the admission of the executor, that he had sufficient assets, and that if so, the jurisdiction of the court remained to give a decree for the payment of the debt. Here is no such case. Daly is alleged to have been the principal wrongdoer, out of several defendants, in cutting and converting the timber on these lands owned by the Government. He died, leaving an estate of over $12,000,000, as averred in the bill of complaint, and the claim of the complainant is only for $2,000,000. Thus, by complainant's own averment, the estate is largely solvent. There is no endeavor to discover assets and no ground for jurisdiction in equity, simply because one of the defendants is an executrix. The proposition of the complainant would confer jurisdiction in equity in every case of a legal cause of action for unliquidated damages for a tort, where one of the wrongdoers had died and an administratrix had been appointed, and the existence of assets was alleged by complainant, largely in excess of the complainant's demand, and the other defendants remained parties. This has never been so held in any case to which our attention has been called, and we are unable to find any principle of equity jurisdiction upon which to permit the maintenance of this suit on the special ground here asserted.
But it is averred there was a fiduciary relationship existing on account of the permits or licenses to cut timber, which, it is alleged, were given the defendant, Bitter Root Development Company, and that in such permits there was set forth an obligation on the part of that company, and others acting for it, to make under oath monthly returns of the amounts and kinds of timber cut, with a description of the particular tract or tracts from which it was cut, how much was disposed of, and to whom, and that a failure to do so was a failure in a fiduciary capacity on the part of the defendant company, and therefore there is jurisdiction in equity. The Government contends that by reason of the duty of the Bitter Root Development Company to keep true and accurate accounts and to monthly submit statements to the officers of the Government, and by reason of its failure so to do, the proceeds of the lumber retained by it became in its hands a trust fund belonging to the complainant; that there was a breach of this trust; its extent is in the defendants' knowledge; and in such cases choice of remedy is with the party aggrieved, and he may proceed in equity for an accounting and pursue the fund. It is doubtful, to say the least, whether an obligation to report as to timber cut on the permitted lands constitutes any fiduciary relationship between the licensees and the Government, with regard to an alleged wrongful cutting of timber on other and separate lands. It is not, in truth, alleged that the returns called for by the permit were not made. Safford v. Ensign Manufacturing Co., 120 F. 480 (Circuit Court of Appeals). However that may be, there is no such obligation (to render monthly accounts) set forth in the bill as being part of the permit or license referred to therein. The bill simply avers that Daly did, at certain times, during the several years of said depredations, apply to and obtain from the lawful agents of the Government licenses to cut upon certain small portions of the tracts above described, and under cover of such permits the conspirators not only cut, carried away and manufactured timber growing on the said lands included in such licenses, but, well knowing that such permits gave them no right or authority to enter upon other lands, they willfully and fraudulently entered upon large tracts of land adjacent thereto and cut the timber therefrom. There is no mention of an obligation to render monthly accounts. The fact that the defendants had permission to cut timber on certain tracts of land described did not make their cutting of timber on other tracts the act of trustees ex maleficio. When they went outside of the tracts for which license was given, they committed a trespass for which they were liable at law. And, again, as the contents of the permits are not set forth, we cannot take judicial notice of such contents in any particular case. Different conditions may be contained in different permits, and they are the subject of the discretion of the department giving the permits.
It is also argued that a court of equity has jurisdiction in such a case as this on the ground of an accounting. We do not think that this is any such case as gives a court of equity jurisdiction because of an accounting being necessary. There are no accounts between the parties. The cause of action is one arising in tort and cannot be converted into one for an account. The case made is a plain trespass, for which the defendants are liable in damages. Or it might be termed an action in trover, as stated. Whatever books, if any, defendants may have kept, showing the amount and location of the timber cut and its value, can be perfectly well obtained by an inspection of these books in an action at law. No discovery is alleged to be necessary in aid of any action at law, although the bill shows that several such actions have in fact been commenced. The facts averred do not show jurisdiction for the general purpose of discovery.
Nor do we see that there is any jurisdiction on the ground of prevention of a multiplicity of suits. Those persons who were guilty of the wrong must be made parties in either court, in order to bind them. Such alleged multiplicity is not avoided in one court more than in the other. It is not a case where a few defendants may be made parties as representatives of a class holding under or claiming the same title or right, and so that a judgment against the representative defendants may bind all others of the class. There is no class and there can be no representatives.
We fail to see any fact alleged in this bill which constitutes a proper foundation for the jurisdiction of a court of equity. The Government counsel, however, assert that since the filing of this bill new and material facts have been discovered by the Government, which in the judgment of counsel would furnish foundation for a bill in equity, even though this bill is defective. In order to permit of the filing of such a bill, if counsel should be so advised, and so as not to run against a plea of res adjudicata, the judgment of dismissal is
Affirmed, without prejudice, etc.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE and MR. JUSTICE McKENNA took no part in the decision of this case.