Hughes v. Blake - 19 U.S. 453 (1821)
U.S. Supreme Court
Hughes v. Blake, 19 U.S. 6 Wheat. 453 453 (1821)
Hughes v. Blake
19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 453
No decree can be made on the testimony of a single witness unaccompanied by corroborating circumstances against a positive denial by the defendant of any matter directly charged by the bill, in the defendant's answer, or answer in support of his plea.
A replication to a plea is an admission of the sufficiency of the plea, as much as if it had been set down for argument and allowed, and all that the defendant has to do is to prove it in point of fact, and a dismission of the bill on the hearing is then a matter of course.
Under what circumstances a plea of a former judgment at law for the cause of action is a good bar in equity.
The object of the bill in equity filed in this case was to recover from the defendant Blake a sum of money arising from the sale of a tract of land, called Yazoo lands, alleged to have been made in 1795 by the defendant as agent of certain persons named in the bill, in which lands the plaintiff, Hughes, claimed an equitable interest in common with the immediate principals of the defendants, and therefore to be entitled to a proportion of the proceeds resulting from the sale. The bill also charged that the defendant had rendered himself distinctly liable for a specific sum of money in virtue of a certain order having reference to the plaintiff's interest in the lands, drawn by one Gibson in September, 1796, in favor of the plaintiff and accepted by the defendant, with certain modifications and conditions, as particularly expressed in the acceptance.
The defendant pleaded in bar both to the relief and the discovery sought by the bill, a former verdict and judgment at law rendered in his favor in the Supreme Court of Massachusetts in the year 1810 upon a suit commenced against him by the present plaintiffs in 1804, being long before the exhibition of the present bill, for the same cause of action. The plea averred that the judgment at law was still in force, that the matters in controversy, and the parties in both suits, were the same, that the whole merits of the case, as stated by the bill, were fully heard, tried, and determined in the action at law and in a court of competent jurisdiction, and that the judgment was obtained fairly and without fraud, covin, or misrepresentation or the taking any undue advantage. It was also averred by the plea that no evidence has come to the plaintiff's knowledge since the trial at law respecting any of the facts alleged in the bill, and which he did not or might not have produced on such trial, and further that the defendant has at no time, as alleged in the bill, obtained of a certain E. Williams any allowance or payment for or on account of his, the defendant's, being liable as bail for Gibson in the plaintiff's bill mentioned, and for which liability he has claimed in the action at law an indemnity out of a fund on the credit of which he had accepted the order in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant, then, without waiving his plea, proceeded to answer and deny the matters alleged by the bill as circumstances of equity to avoid the effect of the proceedings at law, and which he had already denied by the averment in his plea.
To this plea and answer the plaintiff filed a general replication in the usual form, and witnesses were examined by both parties.
At the hearing, the identity of the causes of action were sought to be established without the aid of collateral proof from a comparison of the matters set forth in the bill with the averments contained in the several counts of the plaintiff's declaration, it appearing moreover that in the trial at law, the plaintiff had submitted to the jury in support of these counts the depositions of the same witnesses on whose evidence he relied in support of his bill. The principal other question of fact related to the subject of the negotiation respecting the lands before mentioned, alleged in the plaintiff's bill to have taken place in 1814 between the defendant and E. Williams, whose testimony respecting it was insisted by the plaintiff not to be sufficient to outweigh the effect of the positive denials contained in his plea and answer.
The cause being heard on the issue joined and the proofs taken in it, the court below decreed that the plea was sufficiently proved, and therefore dismissed the bill with costs, and the cause was brought by appeal to this Court.