Hendrickson v. Hinckley - 58 U.S. 443 (1854)
U.S. Supreme Court
Hendrickson v. Hinckley, 58 U.S. 17 How. 443 443 (1854)
Hendrickson v. Hinckley
58 U.S. (17 How.) 443
A court of equity does not interfere with judgments at law unless the complainant has an equitable defense of which he could not avail himself at law, because it did not amount to a legal defense, or had a good defense at law which he was prevented from availing himself of by fraud or accident, unmixed with negligence of himself or his agents.
Therefore a bill was properly dismissed where the complainant sought relief from a judgment at law for the following reasons:
1. Where he alleged that he had been defrauded in the sale of the property, for the purchase of which he gave his notes. The fraud was pleaded at law, and the verdict against him. Moreover, six years elapsed between the sale and suit, and no effort was made to rescind the contract.
2. Certain verbal promises alleged to have been made by the agent of the vendor. These were not admissible in any court to vary a written contract. This defense was also set up at law, and failed.
3. That certain letters from a co-defendant were read to the jury as admissions. This ground of relief was also untenable.
4. That certain claims of setoff existed which he purposely abstained from using in the trial at law. If he voluntarily waived this defense, relying upon a separate action, he has no right now to ask a court of equity to interfere.
On the 26th of October, 1851, Hendrickson, as survivor of Hendrickson and Campbell, filed a bill in the United States Circuit
Court for the District of Ohio alleging that on the 21st day of April, 1848, Hinckley brought a suit on the law side of said court on three promissory notes against said Hendrickson and one Andrew Campbell. That said Hendrickson and Campbell set up in their pleadings and on the trial for defenses the want of consideration, fraud in obtaining the notes, and payment. That the case was tried on these issues by a jury, and thereupon a judgment was recovered against said defendants for $2,386.11 and costs of suit. That afterwards said Campbell and Hendrickson moved for a new trial, which, on consideration, was refused. That Campbell has since died insolvent. That before and after said suit was brought, said Campbell and Hendrickson had a good setoff against said Hinckley amounting to $3,337.85. That before the trial they consulted their counsel respecting it, and that both counsel and client concluded not to set it up on that trial. That on the trial said defendants were surprised by the introduction, on the part of the plaintiff of letters written by said Campbell and to which the jury gave undue weight. That Hinckley is a nonresident of the State of Ohio, and has no property besides said judgment in said state.
The bill then prays for a full discovery from the defendant as to all the facts alleged, and on the grounds of fraud, surprise, nonresidence of the defendant, Hinckley, and the equitable jurisdiction of courts of chancery over claims of only setoff, prays that the judgment be enjoined and his claim be liquidated, and he offers to pay any balance which may be found to be due said Hinckley on such final adjustment.
September 26, 1851, the writ of injunction issued. On the 7th of May, 1852, the defendant, Henckley, filed his answer, denying seriatim all the material allegations in the bill and, under the rule of court, denied all equity therein and prayed to have the same benefit from his answer as if he had demurred to the bill.
At the October term, 1852, the case was heard on the demurrer, the injunction dissolved, and the bill dismissed. From this decree said complainant appealed to this Court.