Clementson v. Williams - 12 U.S. 72 (1814)
U.S. Supreme Court
Clementson v. Williams, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 72 72 (1814)
Clementson v. Williams
12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 72
An acknowledgement of the original justice of a claim is not sufficient to take the cause out of the statute of limitations; the acknowledgement must go to the fact that it is still due.
The statute of limitations is entitled to the same respect with other statutes, and ought not to be explained away.
Quaere whether an acknowledgement by one partner after dissolution of the partnership is sufficient to take a case out of the statute of limitations,
The statutes of limitations were not enacted to protect persons from claims fictitious in their origin, but from ancient claims, whether well or ill founded, which may have been discharged but the evidence of discharge may be lost.
The facts of the case are thus stated by THE CHIEF JUSTICE in delivering the opinion of the court:
The plaintiff instituted a suit against James Williams and John Clarke, merchants and partners trading under the firm of John Clarke & Co. The writ was executed on Williams only, who pleaded nonassumpsit and the act of limitations, on which pleas issues were joined. The jury found that the defendant did not assume, and judgment was rendered in his favor.
At the trial, the plaintiff gave evidence tending to prove the partnership and also to prove dealings of Clarke & Co. with the plaintiff. He then offered a witness who proved that he presented, in December preceding the trial, to John Clarke a certain account against the said John Clarke & Co. in favor of the plaintiff, and that said Clarke stated that the said account was due and that he supposed it had been paid by the defendant, but had not paid it himself, and did not know of its being ever paid. And the witness to whom the said Clarke made the said acknowledgment produces in court the identical account so presented to said Clarke and acknowledged by him as aforesaid, which account is in the words and figures following, to-wit: "an account," &c. And the plaintiff's counsel offered the contents of said account and the acknowledgment of said Clarke in evidence under the issue joined upon the plea of the statute of limitations, but the court decided that the said evidence so offered by the plaintiff of the contents of the said account and of the acknowledgment of the same by the said Clarke was not admissible evidence in this cause, and refused to admit the same. To this opinion the plaintiff excepted, and from the judgment of the circuit court he has appealed to this Court.