TULLOCK V. MULVANE, 184 U. S. 497 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tullock v. Mulvane, 184 U.S. 497 (1902)

Tullock v. Mulvane

No. 59

Argued October 25, 28, 1901

Decided March 3, 1902

184 U.S. 497


The propositions in this case involving federal questions were duly raised below.

Previous to the bringing of the suit in the state court upon the bond, by stipulation filed in the equity cause in the United States court, upon which an order of the court was entered, the bill of complaint had been dismissed as to all the defendants but Mulvane, and it was expressly agreed that all demand for relief by way of specific performance should be withdrawn.

The circuit court of appeals correctly decided that the necessary effect of this agreement was to withdraw from the case all controversy on the subject of the injunction. As by the stipulation Mulvane had not waived any rights of action by reason of damages caused by the injunction, if any, but on the contrary his rights were expressly saved, and as the stipulation was made the basis of an order of the court which had the necessary effect to dismiss from the cause all the grounds upon which alone the rightfulness of the injunction could have been asserted, we think there was a final decision, within the import of the condition of the bond, that the injunction ought not to have been granted.

The claim of immunity from liability for attorney's fees as one of the elements of damage under the injunction bond presented a federal question, which was incorrectly decided by the court below in holding that it was proper to award the amount of such fees in enforcing the bond.

A bond given in pursuance of a law of the United States is governed, as to its construction, not by the local law of a particular state, but by the principles of law as determined by this Court, and operative throughout the courts of the United States.

George P. Wescott and Samuel Hanson were complainants in a bill in equity which was filed, on January 13, 1893, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Kansas. Joab Mulvane and various other persons and corporations were made defendants to the bill. The principal relief sought was to compel the specific performance of a contract alleged to have been entered into between the complainants and Mulvane for the sale by the latter and purchase by the former of all the capital stock of the Topeka Water Supply Company, a Kansas corporation,

Page 184 U. S. 498

also a defendant to the suit. Incidentally it was sought to annul a purported sale of the waterworks plant to another of the defendants, the Topeka Water Company, a Kansas corporation, which it was asserted had been organized by Mulvane. The bill also sought to prevent the Topeka Water Company from encumbering the plant with a mortgage which, it was averred, was about to be executed, and to restrain the issuing and negotiation of bonds proposed to be secured by such mortgage and the sale or disposition of stock of both the Topeka Water Supply Company and the Topeka Water Company. The members of a copartnership, styled Coffin & Stanton, doing business in the City of New York, whom it was charged were offering to the public for sale the bonds so proposed to be issued, were likewise joined as defendants in the bill.

On February 13, 1890, the court ordered a temporary injunction to issue, as prayed, upon the giving of an approved bond. Two days later, however, it was ordered that, instead of a bond, the complainants

"may deposit with the clerk of this court the sum of $75,000 in cash, and that said deposit shall stand for a bond for all damages from the commencement of this suit until the further order of the court, whereby said complainants will be obligated and bound to pay to the defendants all costs and damages aforesaid, if it shall be finally held that said injunction or restraining order was improvidently granted."

On April 4, 1890, upon a hearing, the court sustained a motion which had been filed on behalf of Coffin & Stanton to dissolve the temporary injunction. The dissolution was predicated upon the ruling that an indispensable party had not been made a defendant, and could not be made without ousting the jurisdiction of the court, because such party defendant and the plaintiffs were citizens of the same state.

Thereafter, on June 3, 1890, by leave of court, a formal bond was substituted for the cash deposit which had been made under the order of the court previously stated. A. J. Tullock and W. M.D. Lee were the sureties. The bond recited the order for an injunction, the subsequent permission to deposit cash in lieu of a bond, the making of such cash deposit, the withdrawal of the deposit with the sanction of the court on

Page 184 U. S. 499

the condition that a bond be executed. The fact that the injunction had been in the meanwhile dissolved by the court was also recited. The condition of the bond is reproduced in the margin. *

In October, 1890, pursuant to a stipulation made between complainants and certain of the defendants, filed in the cause, the bill was dismissed as to all the defendants except Mulvane, and so much of the bill as sought a specific performance of the alleged contract between complainants and Mulvane was withdrawn. By the stipulation, the defendants who were dismissed from the cause expressly waived all right of action upon the injunction bond or otherwise, by reason of the allowance of the temporary injunction.

On September 26, 1892, upon the hearing of the cause as between complainants and Mulvane, the bill was dismissed. The case was then appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. That court decided the appeal on the assumption that the question for decision was whether, in view of all the circumstances attending the making of the agreement between complainants and Mulvane, it was one which a court of equity could specifically enforce. The court observed that the cause had evidently been argued and disposed of in the court below on the theory that, under the stipulation, even though the right to have specific performance had been waived, nevertheless damages might be assessed by a court of equity as for a breach of the contract, if the court was of opinion that the appellants

Page 184 U. S. 500

were at the time the bill was filed, entitled to specific performance. Assuming, then, the regularity of this procedure, and its power as an equity court to execute the agreement, the court reviewed the evidence, and held that the complainants were not at the time the bill was filed entitled to the specific performance of the contract, for the reason that they had never put the defendant Mulvane in default by tendering him the sum which he was entitled to receive under the contract of sale, to enforce which the bill had been filed. The court further observed:

"It is assigned for error that the circuit court erred in dissolving the temporary injunction as well as in dismissing the bill on the ground heretofore stated. As the first of these assignments was somewhat pressed on the argument, it becomes necessary to say, and we think it is all sufficient to say, that the appellants cannot be heard to complain in this court of the order dissolving the temporary injunction after voluntarily withdrawing so much of their bill as sought a specific performance of the alleged contract. An injunction could only be awarded as an incident to that species of equitable relief, and when the allegations and the prayer of the bill looking to that form of relief were withdrawn, the injunction necessarily shared the same fate."

Intermediate the dismissal of the bill by the circuit court and the affirmance of the decree of dismissal by the circuit court of appeals, Mulvane, on November 5, 1892, instituted the present action in the state District Court of Shawnee County, Kansas, against A. J. Tullock and W. M. D. Lee, the sureties upon the injunction bond above referred

The action in the state court was tried to sought for the sum of $75,000 as damages sustained by reason of the injunction. Service was not made upon Lee, however, and the action was prosecuted solely against Tullock. An answer was filed, which consisted of a general denial and a plea that the action was prematurely brought because of the pendency of the appeal in the circuit court of appeals.

The action in the state court was tried to a jury. Because of the ruling by the trial judge, in excluding evidence as to expenditures for attorneys' fees in procuring the dissolution of the

Page 184 U. S. 501

injunction, Mulvane prosecuted error, and the judgment entered by the trial court was held by the Supreme Court of Kansas to be erroneous because of such ruling. 58 Kan. 622.

A new trial was thereupon had in the lower court. At this trial, on the offer by Mulvane, the plaintiff, of evidence tending to show payments made by him for attorneys' fees, such evidence was objected to as follows:

"The defendant further objects because it appears that this bond was given in a proceeding in the federal court, and under the law of the United States governing the liability of parties for damages on bonds or in such proceeding in federal courts, attorneys' fees are not included."

At the close of all the evidence, the court allowed the respective parties to amend their pleadings. The petition was amended, among other particulars, by setting out specifically the sum of asserted damage resulting from the payments alleged to have been made by Mulvane to various attorneys in resisting the allowance and procuring the dissolution of the injunction. In the amendment of the answer, it was specifically pleaded that the sums paid to the attorneys by Mulvane were not elements of damage embraced within the terms of the injunction bond, if such bond was construed and enforced according to the rules applicable in the courts of the United States, as expounded by the Supreme Court of the United States. It was asserted that the bond must be measured by the principles controlling in the court where it was given, and that to hold otherwise would deprive the surety of the protection of the law of the United States in contemplation of which he had contracted.

After the amendments and in negation of requests for instructions to the jury made by the plaintiff, the defendant asked the court to charge in substance as follows: 1. That, as by the condition of the bond, liability could not arise until it had been finally determined by the United States court that the injunction ought not to have been granted, the sureties upon the bond were discharged from liability by the effect of the stipulation filed in the cause in which the injunction had been granted, whereby it resulted that a final determination by the court

Page 184 U. S. 502

whether the injunction ought not to have been granted was by consent of parties prevented. 2. If the stipulation had not the effect thus claimed, then, at the time the action on the bond was commenced, an appeal was pending in the circuit court of appeals of the United States from the judgment rendered in the cause, wherein the injunction had been allowed and the bond given, and that the action upon the bond was premature. In addition, the immunity which had been previously asserted, arising from the rule governing in the courts of the United States on the subject of attorneys' fees, was, in view of the pleadings and the prior proceedings in the case, reiterated by a request for an instruction that no attorneys' fees could be recovered on the bonds. All the requests of the defendant having been denied and the court having charged the jury to the contrary, a verdict was returned in the sum of $25,000, of which it may be inferred that about the sum of $20,000 was for payments which Mulvane asserted he had made on his own behalf to the attorneys who had represented his interest in resisting the allowance of and procuring the dissolution of the injunction, albeit that most of the attorneys to whom the payments in question were made were likewise attorneys of record for the other defendants who had specifically in the stipulation waived all claims of damages growing out of the injunction. From the judgment rendered on the verdict of the jury, the cause was carried to the Supreme Court of Kansas, and in that court it was affirmed. 61 Kan. 650. The opinion of the court in effect considered and disposed of the claims of alleged federal right which have been previously referred to, and held them to be untenable. To this judgment of affirmance error was prosecuted and the cause is here for review.

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