U.S. Supreme Court Leeds v. Marine Insurance Company of Alexandria, 15 U.S. 2 Wheat. 380 380 (1817)
Leeds v. Marine Insurance Company of Alexandria
15 U.S. (2 Wheat.) 380
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE DISTRICT
OF COLUMBIA FOR THE COUNTY OF ALEXANDRIA
The answer of one defendant to a bill in chancery cannot be used as evidence against his co-defendant, and the answer of an agent is not evidence against his principal nor are his admissions in pais, unless where they are a part of the res gesta.
Where a cause is set down for hearing on the bill, answer and exhibits, without other pleadings, the whole of the answer must be considered as true.
The opinion of the Court was delivered by MR. JUSTICE WASHINGTON.
This is a bill filed on the equity side of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia for the County of Alexandria by the Marine Insurance Company of Alexandria against Jedediah Leeds, praying for an injunction to a judgment obtained at law in that court against the said company by William Hodgson for the use of George F. Straas and the said Jedediah Leeds. The judgment was obtained by Hodgson on a policy of insurance, dated 30 September, 1799, effected by him with the said company on the brig Hope, in his own name, for George F. Straas and others, of Richmond.
The bill states that in the year 1810, the above judgment was obtained for the use and benefit of
George F. Straas and the respondent Jedediah Leeds. That previous to the said insurance, the said George F. Straas, and Jedediah Leeds, being owners of a vessel called the Sophia, did, through the agency of the said William Hodgson, effect an insurance on the said vessel, the Sophia, for the premium on which, amounting to $2,754, Hodgson gave his own note. That Straas paid $929 in part of the premium note, and claiming a return of premium to the amount of the residue of the said note, he obtained an injunction in the Court of Chancery of Virginia, which was finally dissolved.
The ground on which that injunction is prayed is that the balance of the premium due upon the insurance of the Sophia ought to be offset, so far as it goes, against the judgment at law upon the policy of the Hope.
The answer of Leeds denies that he had any interest in the Sophia at the time the insurance mentioned in the bill was effected, or that he was in any manner concerned in that insurance. He states that within a few months after the insurance on the Hope was effected, and long before the judgment in law was obtained, he had acquired by purchase from Straas and a Mr. Trouin, the other owner of the Hope, all their interest in that vessel and in the policy of insurance which had been effected upon her. He therefore denies the allegation in the bill that the judgment upon that policy was obtained for the use of Straas or for that of any other person than himself. The answer refers to his agreements with
the other owners, which are annexed to the answer as parts thereof.
William Hodgson, who was made a defendant to this bill, states in his answer that he received an order in November, 1799, to effect an insurance on the Sophia and her cargo, for account of Straas and Leeds, in conformity with which order he effected the said insurance with the complainants and gave his own note for the premium. He adds that he always understood from Leeds that he was interested with Straas in the said insurance.
A general replication was filed, but whether to both the answers or to the answer of Hodgson alone is not clear, and a dedimus was awarded to take depositions. No depositions, however, were taken, and the record states that the cause was set down for hearing on the bill, answer, and exhibits, and was heard on those proceedings. The exhibits relied upon by the defendant below to prove his purchases from the other owners of the Hope of their interest in that vessel and in the insurance effected on her were rejected by the circuit court. That court decreed a perpetual injunction as to the sum claimed by the complainants, from which decree an appeal was prayed and allowed to this Court.
The facts relied upon by the appellant to induce a reversal of this decree are 1. that the interest of Straas in the insurance of the Hope was transferred to him, the appellant for a full consideration soon after the insurance was effected and before the judgment at law was obtained; 2. that the appellant had no interest in the Sophia at the time when
the insurance was effected upon her the premium on which is claimed in this case as an offset against the above judgment, and that the insurance of the Sophia was not made for the account or by the orders of the appellant.
The fact last mentioned must be considered as fully established because the answer in which it is asserted is responsive to a direct allegation contained in the bill, and is not contradicted by any evidence in the cause.
The answer of Hodgson to this bill is not evidence against the appellant. The general rule which prevails in chancery is that the answer of one defendant cannot be used as evidence against his co-defendant, and it is the opinion of the Court that this case does not furnish an exception to that rule. The answer of an agent is not evidence against his principal, nor are his admissions in pais, unless where they are a part of the res gesta.
As to the other fact upon which the appellant relies there is more difficulty. The bill states that the judgment was recovered for the benefit of Straas and Leeds. This is denied in the answer, and thus far we may consider that fact as established in favor of the appellant. The answer goes further, and alleges that the recovery was for the sole benefit of the respondent. But this allegation is not proved, and there is no charge in the bill in relation to that fact which the answer contradicts.
After all, it is very difficult to understand from this record by what rules this cause was tried and decided in the circuit court. It is stated in the record
that the cause was set down for hearing on the bill, answer, and exhibits. Now if this was the real state of the cause, there can be no doubt but that the whole of the answer must be considered as true. But it appears on another part of the record that a general replication was filed, and that a commission was allowed for taking depositions. These entries are totally inconsistent with each other unless the latter entry should have been made in reference to Hodgson's answer, which it immediately follows.
Whether setting down the cause for hearing on the bill and answer amounted to a waiver of the replication in case it was put in by both defendants need not be decided in this case, because it is the opinion of this Court that the record exhibits the proceedings in a shape so irregular and equivocal that no final decree can be made which may not be productive of injustice to one or the other of the parties.
The decree of the circuit court therefore must be reversed and the cause remanded with directions to that court to allow the parties to amend the pleadings.