Schutz v. Jordan - 141 U.S. 213 (1891)
U.S. Supreme Court
Schutz v. Jordan, 141 U.S. 213 (1891)
Schutz v. Jordan
Argued April 1, 2, 1891
Decided May 25, 1891
141 U.S. 213
When goods belonging to one party pass into the possession of another surreptitiously and without the knowledge of the latter, no contract of purchase is implied, and if the agent of the latter, who is a party to the surreptitious transfer, sells the goods and puts the proceeds into his principal's possession, but without his knowledge, the principal is not liable in an action for goods sold and delivered, whatever liability he may be under in an action for money had and received.
When the defense in an action for goods sold and delivered to an agent of the defendant is a denial that any such sale was made, the burden is on the plaintiff throughout the case to prove every essential part of the transaction, including the authority of the alleged agent to make the alleged purchase in the manner alleged.
The presumption that a letter properly directed and mailed reached its destination at the proper time and was duly received by the person to whom it was addressed is a presumption of fact, subject to control and limitation by other facts.
The plaintiffs in error, plaintiffs below, were merchants doing business in the City of New York. The defendants were merchants doing business in the City of Boston. The latter had a large establishment, divided into different departments, fifty or sixty in number, with a superintendent in charge of each and in the neighborhood of two thousand employees. The action was on an account for goods sold and delivered, was commenced in the supreme court of New York, and removed thereafter to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York. The complaint alleged:
"At divers times on and between May 7, 1884, and July 30, 1885, the plaintiffs at the special instance and request of the defendants, and at prices agreed upon, sold and delivered to the defendants certain goods, wares, and merchandise amounting in the aggregate at such agreed prices, to the sum of thirty-two thousand six hundred and four 99/100 dollars;
that the defendants have not paid the same, nor any part thereof, though due and payable."
The answer at some length developed a defense, which may be briefly stated as follows: that the defendants never purchased the goods in question; that among their various departments was one known as the "cloak department," which was in charge of one John H. Hewes, an employee, as superintendent; that while the superintendents of these various departments had general authority to buy, these defendants, finding that the stock of goods in this department was more than that desired, directed such superintendent not to increase the stock; that such directions were communicated to the plaintiffs; that, disregarding such instructions, they entered into a fraudulent combination with Hewes by which they were to ship the goods to the defendants, and that he was to receive and distribute them alongside of the other goods in his department. The scheme further contemplated that by reason of the confidence and powers vested in Hewes by the defendants and his management of the details, payment was to be secured in the name of the defendants, and from their funds, though without their knowledge. In other words, the plan as developed was that the plaintiffs, finding a general agent of defendants with authority to purchase, but aware of special restrictions on that authority, conspired with him to ignore such restrictions and in defiance thereof to purchase these goods in defendants' name, and secure payment therefor out of the funds of the defendants in their name and without their knowledge. On trial before a jury, the verdict was for the defendants in respect to these matters, and of the judgment entered thereon the plaintiffs now complain. 32 F. 55.