MOSS V. RIDDLE & CO., 9 U. S. 351 (1809)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Moss v. Riddle & Co., 9 U.S. 5 Cranch 351 351 (1809)

Moss v. Riddle & Co.

9 U.S. (5 Cranch) 3




A bond cannot be delivered to one of the obligees as an escrow.

Fraud consists in intention, and that intention is a fact which must be averred in a plea of fraud.

Error to the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia in an action of debt upon the joint bond of Welsh and Moss for the payment of money.

Welsh, who was the principal debtor, not being found in and not being an inhabitant of the District of Columbia, the suit abated as to him.

The defendant Moss, in his first plea, after protesting

Page 9 U. S. 352

that he did not deliver to any person unconditionally as his act and deed the writing in the declaration mentioned, averred that he signed and

Page 9 U. S. 353

sealed the same and delivered it to Joseph Riddle, one of the plaintiffs, as an escrow, to be his act and deed, on condition that the same should afterwards

Page 9 U. S. 354

be signed, sealed, and delivered by some other friend of Welsh, which was not done, and so the said writing is void as to him the said Moss.

To this plea the plaintiffs demurred specially 1st, because a bond cannot be delivered to the obligee himself as an escrow; 2d, because the plea does not state by what other friend of Welsh it was to have been executed; 3d, because it did not state by whom the execution of the bond by that other friend was to have been procured, leaving it uncertain whether the condition upon which it was to become the deed of Moss was to be performed by him or by Riddle or by Welsh; 4th, Because the plea is repugnant, inconsistent and informal. The second plea, after protesting as in the first plea, avers that Riddle came to the defendant and asked him whether Welsh had not applied to him, Moss, to be his security for a debt due to Riddle & Co., to which Moss replied he had told Welsh he would not be security alone, but would join Welsh and some other friend of his as security for the debt, whereupon Riddle represented that the greatest confidence was placed in Welsh; that

Page 9 U. S. 355

the partnership of Riddle & Co. was about to be dissolved; that Riddle would take care to keep that paper, if it was executed, in his dividend of the debts; that Welsh and Moss might sign the bond at that time, and some other person might sign it afterwards; that in regard to the debt he would look only to Welsh, and would also give Welsh a credit for goods when he, Riddle, should open and commence business on his private and individual account. The plea further avers that Moss, being induced by that representation and promise, did sign, seal, and deliver the writing upon condition that some other friend of the said Welsh should also sign, seal, and deliver the same, and not otherwise, which was never done. That Riddle did afterwards carry on trade and merchandise on his own separate and individual account, but never afterwards credited Welsh with any goods or merchandise, "and so the said writing made and executed as aforesaid is void as to him the said Robert Moss."

To this plea the plaintiff also demurred specially for the causes stated in the first demurrer, and further because the plea is multifarious, argumentative, and offers to put in issue a number of matters unconnected with the defense set up and immaterial in themselves.

The court below gave judgment for the plaintiffs upon both demurrers.

Before the judgment was entered by the clerk, the defendant below prayed leave to amend his first plea by striking out the words "delivered to Joseph Riddle, one of the plaintiffs in this cause," and inserting in lieu thereof the words "placed in the hands of Joseph Riddle, one of the plaintiffs in this cause." But the court refused leave to make the amendment. To which refusal the defendant excepted.

Afterwards, and after the court had pronounced judgment in the cause, the defendant moved the court for leave to file an amended plea, which was in

Page 9 U. S. 356

all respects like the 2d plea, except that it averred that Riddle stated it to be the rule of the plaintiffs to take specialties for their debts if they could be obtained, and that the bond was delivered to Riddle in the absence of the other plaintiff, and except also that the conclusion was as follows:

"and so the said defendant saith that the said writing, made and executed as aforesaid, was obtained by deception and fraud as aforesaid as to him the said Robert Moss, and, by reason of the said deception, is void as to him the said Robert Moss, and this he is ready to verify."

But the court refused to suffer the plea to be filed, being of opinion that it would be bad upon demurrer. To this refusal also the defendant took a bill of exceptions.

Page 9 U. S. 357

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court to the following effect:

It is admitted by the counsel in this case that a bond cannot be delivered to the obligee as an escrow. But it is contended that where there are several obligees constituting a co-partnership, it may be delivered as an escrow to one of the firm. The Court, however, is of opinion that a delivery to one is a delivery to all. It can never be necessary to the validity of a bond that all the obligees should be convened together at the delivery.

Upon the other point, the counsel for the plaintiff in error has insisted that the plea is sufficient.

But the Court thinks it so radically defective as to be bad even upon general demurrer.

There is no allegation of fraud, and the circumstances pleaded do not in themselves amount to fraud.

Fraud consists in intention, and that intention is a fact which ought to have been averred, for it is the gist of the plea, and would have been traversable.

Upon what was the plaintiff below to take issue? Upon all the circumstances stated in the plea which are mere inducement, or upon the conclusion that "the bond is void?" If he had traversed the inducement, the issue would have been immaterial:

Page 9 U. S. 158

if he had traversed the conclusion, it would have been putting in issue to the jury matter of law.

Judgment affirmed with costs.

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