Hopkins v. Lee - 19 U.S. 109 (1821)


U.S. Supreme Court

Hopkins v. Lee, 19 U.S. 6 Wheat. 109 109 (1821)

Hopkins v. Lee

19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 109

Syllabus

A judgment or decree of a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive wherever the same matter is again brought in controversy.

But the rule does not apply to points which come only collaterally under consideration, or are only incidentally considered, or can only be argumentatively inferred from the decree.

In an action at law by the vendee against the vendor for a breach of the contract in not delivering the thing sold, the proper measure of damages is not the price stipulated in the contract, but the value at the time of the breach.

This rule applies to the sale of real as well as personal property, but quaere whether it is the proper measure of damages in the case of an action for eviction

This was an action of covenant, brought by the defendant

Page 19 U. S. 110

in error (Lee) against the plaintiff in error (Hopkins) to recover damages for not conveying certain tracts of military lands which the plaintiff in error had agreed to convey upon the defendant in error relieving a certain encumbrance held by one Rawleigh Colston upon an estate called Hill and Dale, and which Lee had previously granted and sold to Hopkins, and for which the military lands in question were to be received in part payment. The declaration set forth the covenant and averred that Lee had completely removed the encumbrance from Hill and Dale. The defendant below pleaded 1. that he had not completely removed the encumbrance, and 2. that he (the defendant below) had never been required by Lee to convey the military lands to him, and on these pleas issues were joined. Upon the trial, Lee, in order to prove the encumbrance in question was removed, offered in evidence to the jury a record of the proceeding in chancery on a bill filed against him in the circuit court by Hopkins. The bill stated that on 23 January, 1807, the date of the agreement on which the present action at law was brought, Hopkins purchased of Lee the estate of Hill and Dale, for which he agreed to pay $18,000, viz., $10,000 in military lands at settled prices and to give his bond for the residue payable in April, 1809. That Lee, in pursuance of this agreement, selected certain military lands in the bill mentioned. That at the time of the purchase of Hill and Dale, it was mortgaged to Colston for a large sum, which Lee had promised to discharge but had failed so to do, in consequence of which Hopkins had paid off the

Page 19 U. S. 111

mortgage himself. The bill then claimed a large sum of money from Lee for having removed this encumbrance, and prayed that the defendant might be decreed to pay it, or in default thereof that the claimant might be authorized by a decree of chancery to sell the military lands, which he considered as a pledge remaining in his hands, and out of the proceeds thereof, to pay himself. On the coming in of Lee's answer denying several of the allegations of the bill, the cause was referred to a master, who made a report stating a balance of $427.77, due from Hopkins to Lee. This report was not excepted to, and the court, after referring to it, proceeded to decree the payment of the balance. To this testimony the defendant in the present action objected so far as respected the reading of the master's report and the decretal order thereon, but the objection was overruled by the court below, and the evidence admitted. The counsel for the plaintiff in error then prayed the court to instruct the jury that in the assessment of damages, they should take the price of the military lands as agreed upon by the parties in the articles of agreement upon which the action was brought, as the measure of damages for the breach of covenant. But the court refused to give this instruction, and directed the jury to take the price of the lands at the time they ought to have been conveyed as the measure of damages. To this instruction the plaintiff in error excepted, and a verdict and judgment thereon being rendered for the plaintiff below, the cause was brought by writ of error to this Court.

Page 19 U. S. 113



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