Nunez v. Dautel - 86 U.S. 560 (1873)
U.S. Supreme Court
Nunez v. Dautel, 86 U.S. 19 Wall. 560 560 (1873)
Nunez v. Dautel
86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 560
A paper dated in one of the Southern states and promising to pay with interest, a sum of money specified and acknowledged to be due, "as soon as the crop can be sold or the money raised from any other source" is not in either form or effect a promissory note.
It is a promise to pay the money specified upon the occurrence of either of the events named in the paper, or after the lapse of a reasonable amount of time within which to procure, in one mode or in the other, the means necessary to meet the liability.
It does not mean that if the crop should be destroyed or could never be sold, and the parties promising could not procure the money from any other source, the debt should never be paid.
The question of what was a reasonable time (there being no evidence in the case but the written promise itself) was a question for the court. Five years and more is much more than a reasonable time.
Joseph Dautel sued in the court below, I. M. Nunez and others, trading in partnership as I. M. Nunez & Co. The action was assumpsit, and the suit was brought on the 10th of September, 1870. The declaration contained two counts. The first was upon an instrument described as a due bill, whereby the defendants acknowledged to be due and promised to pay to the plaintiff the sum of $1,619.66. The second count claimed the same amount upon an account stated. It appeared by the bill of exceptions that upon the trial the plaintiff gave in evidence an instrument, which was as follows:
"COLUMBUS, GA., September 1, 1865"
"Due Joseph Dautel, or order, $1,619.66, being balance of principal and interest for four years and six months' services. This we will pay as soon as the crop can be sold or the money raised from any other source, payable with interest."
"I. M. NUNEZ & CO."
The execution of the instrument was admitted. The plaintiff gave no other evidence.
The defendants thereupon
"requested the court to charge the jury that if the plaintiff had proved a special agreement which was still operative, he could not recover for an account stated; whereupon the court charged the jury that the paper introduced did not prove such special agreement, and directed the jury upon the evidence to find a verdict for the plaintiff."
The jury found accordingly, and judgment was entered upon the verdict.