Lewis v. Lewis
48 U.S. 776 (1849)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lewis v. Lewis, 48 U.S. 7 How. 776 776 (1849)

Lewis v. Lewis

48 U.S. (7 How.) 776

Syllabus

By a law of the State of Illinois passed in 1827, "Every action of covenant shall be commenced within sixteen years after the cause of such action shall have accrued, and not after." But by a proviso, persons beyond the limits of the state were exempted from the operation of the law, and might bring the action at any time within sixteen years after coming within the state. Afterwards, in 1837, this proviso was repealed.

The statute of 1827 begins to run, as to nonresidents, from the time of the repeal of the saving clause, in 1837, and not before.

This was an action of covenant under the following circumstances.

On 12 March, 1819, Broadwell executed a deed with a general warranty to William Lewis, by which he conveyed to him a tract of land in Ohio.

In June, 1825, one Matthews recovered by ejectment one hundred acres of the land.

Broadwell died in 1827, and one Cromwell was appointed his administrator.

In 1843, Thomas Lewis was appointed administrator de bonis non, and in the same year William Lewis brought this action.

Amongst other pleas filed (which it is not necessary to notice) was one of limitation, to which the plaintiff replied that he was beyond the limits of the state.

To this replication the defendant demurred.

The acts of the Legislature of Illinois under which the question was raised were the two following.

The first, passed on 10 February, 1827, and entitled "An act for the limitation of actions and for avoiding vexatious law suits."

"SEC. 4. That every action of debt, or covenant for rent, or arrearages of rent founded upon any lease under seal, and every action of debt or covenant, founded upon any single or penal bill, promissory note, or writing obligatory, for the direct payment of money, or the delivery of property, or the performance of covenants, or upon any award under the hands and seals of arbitrators, for the payment of money only shall be commenced within sixteen years after the cause of such action shall have accrued, and not after; but if any payment shall have been made on any such lease, single or penal bill, promissory note, writing obligatory, or award within sixteen years after, such payment shall be good and effectual in law, and not after. "

Page 48 U. S. 777

"SEC. 7. That every real, possessory, ancestral, or mixed action or writ of right brought for the recovery of any lands, tenements, or hereditaments shall be brought within twenty years next after the right or title thereto or cause of such action accrued, and not after, provided that in all the foregoing cases in this act mentioned, where the person or persons, who shall have right of entry, title, or cause of action, is, are, or shall be at the time of such right of entry, title, or cause of action under the age of twenty-one years, insane, beyond the limits of this state, or feme covert, such person or persons may make such entry, or institute such action so that the same be done within such time as is within the different sections of this act limited after his or her becoming of full age, sane, feme sole, or coming within this state."

The other act was passed on 11 February, 1837, and was as follows:

"An act to amend an act entitled 'An act for the limitation of actions, and for avoiding vexatious law suits.'"

"SEC. 1. Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the general assembly, that the proviso to the seventh section of the act to which this is an amendment shall not be held to extend to any nonresident, unless such nonresident be under the age of twenty-one years, insane, or feme covert, and then in that case the rights of such persons shall be saved for the time limited by the different sections of said act after his or her becoming of full age, sane, or feme sole. Approved February 11, 1837."

Upon the trial, the opinions of the judges were opposed upon the following points, which were certified to this Court:

"1st. Whether the statute of 1827 begins to run from the time of the repeal of the saving clause in 1837 or from the time the debt became due."

"2d. Whether the statute began to run before administration was granted."

"3d. Whether the period which elapsed between the two administrations mentioned in the replication is to be deducted from the period of the statute of limitations of 1827."

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