Hotchkiss v. National Banks
88 U.S. 354 (1874)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Hotchkiss v. National Banks, 88 U.S. 21 Wall. 354 354 (1874)

Hotchkiss v. National Banks

88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 354

Syllabus

1. In May, 1863, the Milwaukee & St Paul Railway Company issued coupon bonds, by each of which the company acknowledged its indebtedness to certain persons named, or bearer, in the sum of $1,000, and promised to pay the amount to the bearer on the 1st day of January, 1893, at the office of the company in the City of New York, with semiannual interest at the rate of seven percent per annum, on the presentation and surrender of the coupons annexed as they severally became due. Immediately following this acknowledgment of indebtedness and promise of payment, there was in each of the instruments a further agreement of the company to make what was termed "the scrip preferred stock," attached to the bond, full-paid stock at any time within ten days after any dividend should have been declared and become payable on such preferred stock, upon surrender, in the City of New York, of the bond and the unmatured interest warrants. To each of the bonds there was originally attached by a pin the certificate of scrip preferred stock thus referred to, which stated that the complainant was entitled to ten shares of the capital stock of the company, designated as "scrip preferred stock," and that upon the surrender of the certificate and accompanying bond and all unmatured coupons thereon, as provided in the agreement, he should be entitled to receive ten shares of full-paid preferred stock. Three of these bonds with certificates attached were stolen from the plaintiff, and were taken by the defendants as collateral security for notes discounted by them, without actual notice of any defect in the title of the holder, but the certificates were at the time detached from the bonds. Held, 1st, that the bonds were negotiable instruments notwithstanding the agreement respecting the scrip preferred stock contained in them, that agreement being independent of the pecuniary obligation of the company, and 2d, that the absence of the certificates originally attached to the bonds, when the latter were taken by the defendants, was not of itself a circumstance sufficient to put the defendants upon inquiry as to the title of the holder.

2. The title of a person who takes negotiable paper before due for a valuable consideration can only be defeated by showing bad faith in him, which implies guilty knowledge or willful ignorance of the facts impairing the title of the party from whom ho received it, and the burden of proof lies on the assailant of the taker's title

This was a suit to compel the defendants to surrender to the complainant three coupon bonds of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, each for $1,000, of which he

Page 88 U. S. 355

professed to be owner and which he alleged were received by the defendants in bad faith, with notice of his rights. The instruments were dated May 6, 1863; by each of them, the company acknowledges its indebtedness to certain persons named or bearer in the sum designated, and promises to pay the amount to the bearer on the 1st of January, 1893, at the office of the company in the City of New York, with semiannual interest at the rate of seven percent per annum, on the presentation and surrender of the coupons annexed as they severally become due, with a provision that in case of nonpayment of interest for six months, the whole principal of the bond shall become due and payable.

Immediately following this acknowledgment of the indebtedness of the company and its promise of payment, there was in each of these instruments a further agreement of the company to make what is termed "the scrip preferred stock," attached to the bond, full-paid stock at any time within ten days after any dividend shall have been declared and become payable on such preferred stock upon surrender, in the City of New York, of the bond and the unmatured interest warrants.

The several instruments also stated that the bonds were parts of a series of bonds issued by the company, amounting to $2,200,000, and that upon the acquisition of certain other railroads the issue of bonds might be increased in certain designated amounts; that the bonds were executed and delivered in conformity with the laws of Wisconsin, the articles of association of the company, the vote of the stockholders, and resolution of the board of directors; and that the bearer of each bond was entitled to the security derived from a mortgage of the property and franchises of the company, executed to certain designated trustees, and to the benefits to be derived from a sinking fund, established by the mortgage, of all such sums of money as are received from the sales of lands granted to the company by the United States or by the state of Wisconsin.

To each of these bonds there was originally attached by a pin the certificate of scrip preferred stock which is referred

Page 88 U. S. 356

to in the body of the instrument. This certificate was to the effect that the complainant was entitled to ten shares of the capital stock of the company, designated as "scrip preferred stock;" and that upon the surrender of the certificate and accompanying bond, and all unmatured coupons thereon, at any time within ten days after any dividends should have been declared and become payable on the full stock of the preferred stocks of the company, the complainant should be entitled to receive ten shares of such full-paid preferred stock, and that this scrip preferred stock was only transferable on the books of the company at their office in the City of New York, in person or by attorney, on the surrender of the certificate.

In November, 1868, these bonds, with coupons and certificates attached, belonged to the complainant, and during that month were stolen from a bank in Bridgeport, Connecticut, together with a large amount of other property there on deposit. They were received in January and February, 1869, by the defendants, banking institutions in the City of New York, as collateral security for notes discounted by them, and were now held as such security for those notes, or new notes given in renewal of them, and they were received without actual notice of any defect in the holders' title. At that time, the certificates of scrip preferred stock, originally pinned to the bonds, were detached from them.

And the questions for determination were whether the agreement in the instruments as to the scrip preferred stock affected their negotiability and whether the absence of the certificates attached was a circumstance sufficient to put the banks upon inquiry as to the title of the holder.

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.