Cushing v. Laird
107 U.S. 69 (1883)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cushing v. Laird, 107 U.S. 69 (1883)

Cushing v. Laird

Decided March 5, 1883

107 U.S. 69




1. When persons summoned as garnishees in a libel in admiralty in personam are adjudged by the court to have a fund of the principal defendant in their hands and to pay it into court, and the libellant afterwards obtains a final decree against him with an award of execution against the fund in their hands, the first order is interlocutory, and they can appeal from the last decree only.

2. A final decree of acquittal and restitution to the only claimant in a prize cause determines nothing as to the title in the property beyond the question of prize or no prize, and another person, who actually conducts the defense in the prize cause in behalf and by consent of the claimant, without disclosing his own title under a previous bill of sale from the claimant, is not estopped to contest the claimant's title in a subsequent suit brought by creditors attaching the property or its proceeds as belonging to the claimant.

Appeals from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

MR. JUSTICE GRAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a libel in admiralty, filed in the District Court for the Southern District of New York by John N. Cushing and others against John Laird, Jr., to recover damages for the destruction of the libellants' vessel, the Sonora, by the Alabama. The defendant was not found and never appeared in the cause, and his credits and effects were attached in the hands of Foster & Thomson, garnishees.

The garnishees answered that they had in their hands a fund amounting to $31,441.62, known as the proceeds of the steamer Wren, which was the property of Charles K. Prioleau, and not of Laird. Upon the trial of the issue raised by this answer, the district court, in April, 1873, adjudged that the fund belonged to Laird, and ordered the garnishees to pay it into court. See 6 Benedict 408. From that decree the garnishees

Page 107 U. S. 70

appealed to the circuit court. The district court afterwards, in September, 1873, entered a decree in favor of the libellants against Laird for the sum of $143,298.70 and costs,

"and that the libellants have execution thereon, to satisfy this decree, against the property of the said respondent, and especially against his property, credits, and effects in the hands of Foster & Thomson, garnishees."

From this decree also the garnishees appealed to the circuit court. The circuit court dismissed the first appeal and retained the cause for hearing on the second appeal only, and, upon consideration, entered a decree by which it was adjudged that the fund in the hands of the garnishees was not the property of Laird, and could not be subjected to the payment of the decree against him, the attachments against the garnishees were discharged, and both decrees of the district court, so far as affected them and the fund in their hands, were reversed with costs. See 15 Blatchf. 219.

The findings of fact by the circuit court are printed at length in 15 Blatchf. 220-236, and, so far as they are material to be stated, are as follows:

The steamer Wren was built at Birkenhead, England, in 1864, by Laird Bros., and was registered on the 24th of December, 1864 at Liverpool, in accordance with the laws of Great Britain, in the name of John Laird, Jr., as owner; a certificate of the registry was issued in due form; the vessel sailed from Liverpool, having the certificate on board as part of her ship's papers, and it did not appear that she ever again entered a British port. On the 3d of January, 1865, after she had left Liverpool, Laird executed to Charles K. Prioleau, of Liverpool, a member of the firm of Fraser, Trenholm & Co., for the consideration of

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