Riggin v. Magwire
82 U.S. 549

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U.S. Supreme Court

Riggin v. Magwire, 82 U.S. 15 Wall. 549 549 (1872)

Riggin v. Magwire

82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 549

Syllabus

1. The fifth section of the Bankrupt Act of 1841 enacts that

"All creditors whose debts are not due and payable until a future day, all annuitants, holders of bottomry and respondentia bonds, holders of policies of insurance, sureties, endorsers, bail, or other persons having uncertain or contingent demands against such bankrupt, shall be permitted to come in and prove such debts and claims under the act, and shall have a right when those debts or claims become absolute to have the same allowed them, and such annuitants and holders of debts payable in future may have the present value thereof ascertained under the direction of such court, and allowed them accordingly, as debts in praesenti."

Under this section, so long as it remains wholly uncertain whether a contract or engagement will ever give rise to an actual duty or liability and there is no means of removing the uncertainty by calculation, such contract or engagement is not provable under the act.

2. A claim for a breach of covenant that the grantor has an indefeasible estate in fee in land sold -- the claim arising from the right of his wife, yet living, to be endowed of the estate -- is of this character during the life of the husband.

Magwire sued Riggin in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri, to recover damages for a breach of covenant.

Page 82 U. S. 550

The defendant pleaded a discharge under the Bankrupt Act of 1841, obtained in June, 1843, but his plea was disallowed, both by the lower court and by the Supreme Court of Missouri on appeal. He therefore brought the case here by writ of error.

The case was this:

On the 2d of December, 1839, Riggin conveyed a certain tract of land near St. Louis to one Ellis in fee. The operative words of the conveyance were "grant, bargain, sell," &c., which words in Missouri create a covenant that the grantor has an indefeasible estate in fee. [Footnote 1] The fact was that prior to the execution of this deed, the property had belonged to one Martin Thomas, whose wife had never relinquished her right to dower in it. But Thomas was then living, and did not die until 1848, several years after the alleged discharge of Riggin as a bankrupt. The property afterwards, by regular devolution of title, came into possession of Magwire, who sold it in lots to various persons. In 1868, these persons were sued by Mrs. Thomas, widow of Martin Thomas, for the value of her dower, and were obliged to pay it, and the plaintiff was obliged to refund them the amount. He therefore brought this suit against Riggin for damages under his implied covenant of indefeasible seizin.

The question was whether Riggin was discharged from this demand by his decree of discharge in bankruptcy in 1843? Whether he was or not depended on the question whether the claim could have been proved in that proceeding. The 5th section of the Bankrupt Act of 1841 [Footnote 2] declares as follows:

"All creditors whose debts are not due and payable until a future day, all annuitants, holders of bottomry and respondentia bonds, holders of policies of insurance, sureties, endorsers, bail, or other persons having uncertain or contingent demands against such bankrupt, shall be permitted to come in and prove such

Page 82 U. S. 551

debts and claims under the act, and shall have a right, when these debts or claims become a absolute, to have the same allowed them, and such annuitants and holders of debts payable in future may have the present value thereof ascertained under the direction of such court and allowed them accordingly as debts in praesenti."

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