TILLSON V. UNITED STATES, 100 U. S. 43 (1879)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tillson v. United States, 100 U.S. 43 (1879)

Tillson v. United States

100 U.S. 43


Where the claim of a party for loss and damage growing out of the alleged failure of the United States to perform its contracts with him as to time and manner of payment is, by a special act of Congress, referred to the Court of Claims "to investigate the same and to ascertain, determine, and adjudge the amount equitably due, if any, for such loss and damage," held that the rules of law applicable to the adjudication of claims by that court in the exercise of its general jurisdiction must govern, and that interest, not having been stipulated for in the contracts, cannot be allowed thereon.

The Court of Claims found the following facts:

Page 100 U. S. 44

"I. The claimants and the defendants entered into the various contracts and agreements set forth in the petition."

"II. The claimants, at various times between the 9th of October, 1862, and the 24th of October, 1864, delivered horse equipments and infantry accoutrements, under said contracts and agreements, to the defendants' officers at the United States arsenal in St. Louis, to the amount of $494,972.66."

"III. There were one hundred and fifteen distinct deliveries of the above-described goods made by the claimants, extending from the 9th of October, 1862, to the 24th of October, 1864; and the goods delivered were then, at the respective times of delivery, inspected and approved by the defendants' officers, and bills therefor were duly authenticated by the proper officers of the Ordnance Department, as provided by the contract, and no negligence or delay is attributable to the officers of the Ordnance Department in regard to the inspection of the goods or the issuing of the vouchers. The vouchers so received by the claimants were by them presented to the Ordnance Office in Washington, and were by the Ordnance Office transmitted to the treasury, to be audited and paid, and no delay in so transmitting them is attributable to the Ordnance Office. After the vouchers reached the Treasury Department, intervals of different length occurred before they were audited and drafts issued in payment thereof. The shortest interval between the receipt of a voucher by the Treasury Department and the issuing of the draft in payment was seven days, and the longest was one hundred and fourteen days; the average was thirty-six days. During the period of the fulfillment of their contracts and agreements, before described, the claimants' business necessities compelled them to borrow money by hypothecating or selling their vouchers, and the rate of discount paid by them generally was ten percent per annum."

"IV. A portion of the payments made to the claimants upon the vouchers before described were made, to the extent of twenty-five percent thereof, by certificates of indebtedness issued under the act of 1st March, 1862. 12 Stat. 352. These certificates were sent by mail to the claimants, accompanied by ordinary treasury drafts for the remaining seventy-five percent of the payments. The claimants neither solicited such

Page 100 U. S. 45

certificates nor objected to them. Being below par in the market, the claimants sold them at a discount of seven and a half percent. The total amount of the certificates so issued to them was $77,000, and the discount or loss suffered by the claimants in disposing of them for cash was $5,775."

Upon the foregoing facts that court decided as conclusions of law,

"1. The loss and damage suffered by the claimants from the failure to keep and perform the contracts referred to in the findings aforesaid, as to the time and manner of payment thereof, were too remote to be a subject of recovery in this action, within the meaning and intent of the private act for the relief of the claimants, passed June 23, 1874."

"2. The claimants, by voluntarily accepting certificates of indebtedness in part payment of their demands, are concluded from saying that such payments were in violation of the terms of their contracts with the government."

"3. In contracting with the government, the claimants submitted themselves to the regular routine of public business, and are not entitled to recover damages for the delays which occurred in auditing their vouchers in the Treasury Department."

The court rendered judgment dismissing the petition of the plaintiffs, and they appealed.

The Act of June 23, 1874, referred to by the Court of Claims, under which this suit was brought, is as follows:

"An Act for the relief of Robert Tillson & Company, Quincy, Illinois:"

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that are claim of Robert Tillson and Company, of Quincy, Illinois, for loss and damage growing out of the failure of the government of the United States to keep and perform the contract or contracts, as to time and manner of payment, under which certain horse equipments and infantry accoutrements were manufactured between the months of September, 1862, and July, 1864, by said Tillson and Company, for said government, be and the same is hereby referred to the Court of Claims, and such court is authorized and directed to investigate the same, and to ascertain, determine, and adjudge the amount equitably due said firm, if any, for such loss and damage. "

Page 100 U. S. 46

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