Wicker v. Hoppock - 73 U.S. 94 (1867)
U.S. Supreme Court
Wicker v. Hoppock, 73 U.S. 6 Wall. 94 94 (1867)
Wicker v. Hoppock
73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 94
1. The rules about judicial sales which make void as against public policy agreements that persons competent to bid at them will not bid forbid such agreements alone as are meant to prevent competition and induce
a sacrifice of the property sold. An agreement to bid, the object of it being fair, is not void.
2. On a breach of a contract to pay, as distinguished from a contract to indemnify, the amount which would have been received if the contract bad been kept is the measure of damages if the contract is broken.
Caldwell being owner of a distillery, subject to a mortgage to Hoppock, leased it to Chapin & Co. for three years, it being agreed by the lease itself that the rent, so much a year, should be paid by Chapin & Co. directly to Caldwell the mortgagee, so as to keep down in part the interest on the mortgage. Chapin & Co., after being for about eighteen months in occupation of the distillery and accumulating at it a considerable amount of personal chattels such as are commonly used about such a place, assigned the lease to one Wicker under some sort of partnership arrangement, and Wicker went in. The rent not having been paid, according to his agreement, by Chapin & Co. to Hoppock, the mortgagee, Hoppock applied now to Wicker to pay it, giving him to understand that unless he did pay it, suit of foreclosure would have to be brought on the mortgage, and he dispossessed. After some negotiations, Wicker, who it seemed was desirous of becoming owner of the personal chattels which Chapin & Co. had left at the distillery, agreed with Hoppock that if he, Hoppock, would sue Chapin & Co. for the amount of rent in arrear and obtain judgment and levy on the property, he, Wicker, "would bid it off for whatever the judgment and costs might be." Hoppock did accordingly sue and obtain judgment against Chapin & Co., the judgment having been for $2,206. Chapin & Co. were indebted also to Wicker on some transactions growing out of the distillery, and Wicker, who asserted himself to have advanced money on it, caused most of the property already mentioned as left by Chapin & Co. to be removed to Chicago.
Hoppock's counsel meaning to proceed with his execution, gave notice to Wicker of the intention to sell and of the day of sale. Wicker, however, did not attend the sale, nor was any bid made in his name. And all the property of Chapin & Co. that was there and could be levied on was knocked down to Hoppock, the only bidder, for the sum of two dollars. Thereupon Hoppock brought assumpsit in the Circuit Court for Northern Illinois -- the suit below -- against Wicker to recover damages for the breach of his agreement to appear at the sheriff's sale and bid off the property levied on for the full amount of the judgment for which the execution issued.
The court below, against requests by the defendant's counsel to charge otherwise, considered and charged:
1. That the agreement between Hoppock and Wicker was not invalid as tending to prevent the fairness of a judicial sale, and therefore against public policy.
2. That the measure of damages was the amount of the judgments with interest and costs.
The case was now here on writ of error by Wicker, for a review on these points.