Stearns v. Page - 48 U.S. 819 (1849)
U.S. Supreme Court
Stearns v. Page, 48 U.S. 7 How. 819 819 (1849)
Stearns v. Page
48 U.S. (7 How.) 819
The general rules stated which govern a court of equity in opening accounts and sustaining claims which are barred by the statute of limitations.
Great caution is exercised, and the complainant is holden to stringent rules of pleading and evidence.
He must state in his bill distinctly the particular act of fraud, misrepresentation, or concealment; must specify how, when, and in what manner it was perpetrated.
The charges must be definite and reasonably certain, capable of proof and clearly proved.
If a mistake is alleged, it must be stated with precision and made apparent, so that the court may rectify it, with a feeling of certainty that they are not committing another and perhaps greater mistake.
And especially must there be distinct averments as to the time when the fraud, mistake, concealment, or misrepresentation was discovered, and what the discovery is, so that the court may clearly see whether, by the exercise of ordinary diligence, the discovery might not have been before made.
The bill, filed by Stearns as administrator de bonis non of John O. Page, proposed to open and review the accounts of the estate of said Page, which were filed from 1811 to 1816 by his widow and original administratrix, Sarah Page.
The record was very voluminous. There was a bill, and an amended bill, and amendments to the amended bill, and an amendment to one of the amendments to the amended bill. Then there were answers to all these bills, and exceptions to the answers, and motions for the production of books and papers, and a great mass of testimony filed. After all, the record was deemed incomplete, and a certiorari issued to bring up more.
It is unnecessary to give an extended account of all these things because the opinion of the Court is so intermingled with and founded upon the facts of the case that it is sufficient for the Reporter to refer the reader to that opinion.
The defendant below pleaded the statute of limitations, although he answered the bill.
In October, 1843, the circuit court dismissed the bill, when the complainant appealed to this Court.