Bartholow v. Bean
85 U.S. 635 (1873)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bartholow v. Bean, 85 U.S. 18 Wall. 635 635 (1873)

Bartholow v. Bean

85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 635

Syllabus

A payment by an insolvent which would otherwise be void as a preference under sections thirty-five and thirty-nine of the Bankrupt Law is not excepted out of the provisions of those sections because it was made to

a holder of his note overdue, on which there was a solvent endorser whose liability was already fixed.

Kintzing & Co. (a firm composed of one Kintzing and a certain Lindsley) were grocers in St. Louis, and kept a bank account with Bartholow & Co., bankers in the same city. On the 15th of January, 1869, these last discounted a note for $2,500 of their customers, the said Kintzing & Co., endorsed by J. B. Wilcox, and maturing on the 15-18th of March, 1869.

On the 15th of February, 1869, Kintzing & Co. called a meeting of their creditors. These assembled and "most of them" signed a deed of composition, by which they agreed to take seventy cents on the dollar, in notes of Kintzing, payable in six, twelve, and eighteen months. But there was a provision in the deed that it should not be binding on

Page 85 U. S. 636

any creditors unless agreed to and signed by all. Some did not sign. Some who signed took the composition notes [the amount so taken having been (apparently) $75,000]. [Footnote 1]

Among the few who did not sign were Bartholow & Co. They well knew, however, that an agreement such as above described had been entered into by the other creditors.

On the 27th of February, Kintzing & Co. dissolved their partnership, Lindsley retiring and Kintzing taking all the assets and assuming all the debts of the firm.

Before the day when the note of Kintzing & Co. matured, Wilcox, he, as already said, being confessedly solvent, waived protest and notice, and the note remained unpaid till August 9, on which day Kintzing, being then "hopelessly insolvent even under the terms of the agreement," paid it.

On the 18th of August, 1869, "the paper given by said Kintzing, pursuant to the terms of said compromise, to the amount of about $25,000, became due," and on the 17th of September a petition in bankruptcy was filed against him, on which he was decreed a bankrupt, and one Bean appointed his assignee in bankruptcy.

Bean brought this suit against Bartholow & Co. to recover the money which Kintzing had paid to the said bankers in discharge of the note, alleging that he made the payment "with a view to give a preference to them" and in fraud of the provisions of the Bankrupt law.

The thirty-fifth and thirty-ninth sections of the Bankrupt law, which were relied on by the assignee as giving him the right in law to recover, are thus: [Footnote 2]

"SECTION 35. If any person being insolvent, or in contemplation of insolvency, within four months before the filing of the

Page 85 U. S. 637

petition . . . against him, with a view to give a preference to any creditor or person having a claim against him, or who is under any liability for him, . . . makes any payment, pledge, assignment, transfer or conveyance of any part of his property, either directly or indirectly, the person receiving such payment, pledge, assignment, transfer or conveyance, or to be benefited thereby, having reasonable cause to believe such person is insolvent, . . . and that such . . . payment, pledge, assignment, or conveyance, is made in fraud of the provisions of this act, the same shall be void, and the assignee may recover the property, or the value of it, from the person so receiving it, or so to be benefited. . . ."

"And if any person being insolvent, or in contemplation of insolvency or bankruptcy, within six months before the filing of the petition . . . against him makes any payment, sale, assignment, transfer, conveyance, or other disposition of his property, to any person who then has reasonable cause to believe him insolvent, or to be acting in contemplation of insolvency, and that such payment, sale, assignment, transfer, conveyance, or other disposition &c., is made with a view to prevent his property from coming to his assignee in bankruptcy, or to prevent the same being distributed under this act, or to defeat the object of, . . . or to evade any of the provisions of this act, the sale, assignment, transfer, or conveyance shall be void, and the assignee may recover the property, or the value thereof, as assets of the bankrupt."

"SECTION 39. Any person . . . who being bankrupt or insolvent, or in contemplation of bankruptcy or insolvency, shall make any payment, grant, sale, conveyance, or transfer of money, or other property or estate, . . . with intent to give a preference to one or more of his creditors, or to any person . . . who . . . is or may be liable for him as endorser . . . shall be adjudged a bankrupt on the petition of one or more of his creditors. . . . And . . . the assignee may recover back the money . . . so paid . . . provided the person receiving such payment, or conveyance, had reasonable cause to believe that a fraud on this act was intended, or that the debtor was insolvent."

The court below, on the case found, gave judgment for the assignee. Bartholow & Co. brought the case here.

Page 85 U. S. 639

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