Johnson v. Collier
222 U.S. 538 (1912)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Johnson v. Collier, 222 U.S. 538 (1912)

Johnson v. Collier

No. 104

Argued December 14, 15, 1911

Decided January 9, 1912

222 U.S. 538

Syllabus

The bankrupt is not divested of his property by filing a petition in bankruptcy. He is still the owner, holding in trust, pending the appointment and qualification of the trustee, whose title then relates back to the date of adjudication.

Until the election of the trustee, the bankrupt may institute and maintain a suit on any cause of action possessed by him.

161 Ala. 204. affirmed.

M. B. Johnson, as executor, recovered judgment against B. T. Collier in the City Court of Gadsden, Ala. Execution thereon was levied July 20, 1906, on certain personal property.

Under a provision of the Alabama statute, Collier immediately filed with the sheriff a claim of exemption. On the same day he filed, in the proper district court of the United States, a voluntary petition in bankruptcy, including this property in his schedule of assets. Notwithstanding the claim of exemption, the sheriff sold the property at public outcry on July 30, 1906.

Thereafter, on a date not shown by the record, Collier was adjudicated a bankrupt. On August 8, 1906, before a trustee was elected, he brought suit against both Johnson and the sheriff for damages on the theory that the sale of the property after the filing of the claim of exemption made them trespassers ab initio. The defendants filed a plea in which they set up the pendency of the bankruptcy proceedings and alleged that Collier had no title to the cause of action which was in gremio legis until the election of the trustee, and for that reason he could not maintain a suit

Page 222 U. S. 539

for damages occasioned by the unlawful sale of property included in the schedule of assets. A demurrer to this plea was sustained. The jury found a verdict in favor of Collier, which the trial court refused to set aside. This ruling was affirmed, and the case is here on a writ of error from that judgment of the Supreme Court of Alabama.

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