Lincoln v. Claflin
74 U.S. 132 (1868)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lincoln v. Claflin, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 132 132 (1868)

Lincoln v. Claflin

74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 132

Syllabus

1. A bill of exceptions should only present the rulings of the court upon some matter of law, and should contain only so much of the testimony, or such a statement of the proofs made or offered as may be necessary to explain the bearing of the rulings upon the issue involved.

2. In an action against two defendants for fraudulently obtaining the property of the plaintiff, the declaration alleged that the fraud was a matter of prearrangement between them. The fraud of one of the defendants was not contested, and as to the other defendant, held that his subsequent participation in the fraud and its fruits was as effective to charge him to preconcert and combination for its execution.

3. Where fraud in the purchase or sale of property is in issue, evidence of other frauds of like character, committed by the same parties, at or near the same time, is admissible.

4. Where two persons are engaged together in the furtherance of a common design to defraud others, the declarations of each relating to the enterprise are evidence against the other, though made in the latter's absence.

5. Interest is not allowable as a matter of law in cases of tort. Its allowance as damages rests in the discretion of the jury.

6. Where a charge to the jury embraces several distinct propositions, a general exception to it will not avail the party if any one of the propositions is correct.

Claflin and others brought an action on the case against two defendants, Lincoln and Mileham, for fraudulently obtaining the property of the plaintiffs, alleging a combination and prearrangement between them, by which Mileham purchased goods to a large amount of different parties in New York, and among others of the plaintiffs, upon false and fraudulent representations of his means and business, and Lincoln sold them at St. Louis, within a few days afterwards, at auction, for less than their cost price, and appropriated the proceeds to his own use, the whole thing being alleged to have been done with intent to defraud the vendors of their property.

That Mileham was guilty of the fraud was not seriously controverted in the court below.

The principal defense turned upon the connection of the

Page 74 U. S. 133

defendant Lincoln with the fraudulent acts of Mileham. Lincoln had been, it was alleged, a large creditor of Mileham, and, as he and Mileham asserted, had obtained the goods from Mileham only by his own superior vigilance, and to pay his own just debt. On the subject of the fraudulent connection of the parties, the court charged that the jury must be satisfied either that Lincoln was a party to the original fraud, or that he became a party to it by his own conduct and acts subsequently, with knowledge of the fraud; and that this last, if true, "would be the same as though he had been a party to it originally." The court also admitted evidence of other similar fraudulent transactions of the same parties, with others, made about the same time. The court also allowed declarations of each party, made in the absence of the other, relating to the transaction in question, to go to the jury; but it charged that whether these declarations would be evidence as against both, would depend on the view the jury should take in relation to the completion and consummation of the fraudulent enterprise; that is to say, if they believed there was a fraudulent concert between the two defendants, and that these declarations were made during the progress and continuation of the enterprise, what each said would be evidence against the other; but that if the enterprise was ended and completed before the declarations were made, then that what one said would not be evidence against the other. As to damages, it charged that if the jury should find for the plaintiffs, that the amount should be "the value of the goods at the time they were purchased, with interest from that time."

The plaintiff excepted to the admission of the evidence above mentioned, and to the charge of the court generally, but did not except to it on the ground of a wrong instruction as to interest. The bill of exceptions set out the whole evidence given on the trial, with a long charge in extenso, and occupied ninety-six pages out of a hundred and twenty-six which composed the record.

The plaintiff recovered judgment, and the defendant, Lincoln, brought the case by a writ of error to this Court.

Page 74 U. S. 136

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