Yeatman v. Savings Institution - 95 U.S. 764 (1877)
U.S. Supreme Court
Yeatman v. Savings Institution, 95 U.S. 764 (1877)
Yeatman v. Savings Institution
95 U.S. 764
1. Except where, within a prescribed period before the commencement of proceedings in bankruptcy, an attachment has been sued out against the property of the bankrupt, or where his disposition of his property was, under the statute, fraudulent and void, his assignees take his real and personal estate, subject to all equities, liens, and encumbrances thereon, whether created by his act or by operation of law.
2. Until he shall be paid, the pledgee is entitled to the possession of the property which he holds under a valid pledge as security for his debt against the pledgeors, notwithstanding a subsequent adjudication of bankruptcy against them, and his refusal to surrender it to their assignees is not a conversion of it.
3. The failure of the pledgee to appear and prove his claim in the bankruptcy court forfeits only his right to participate in the distribution of the bankrupt's estate ordered by that court.
On the 22d of July, 1871, O'Fallon & Hatch, a firm doing business at St. Louis, delivered, in pledge, to the New Orleans Savings Institution, a corporation created by the laws of Louisiana, having its place of business in New Orleans, two certificates of indebtedness issued by that state, each for the sum of $5,000, to secure the payment of a promissory note of the firm for $5,000, dated July 21, 1871, made payable to its own order on the 21st of January, 1872, and by it endorsed in blank. It is conceded that the corporation acquired the note and the certificates of indebtedness in due course of business, and for a valuable consideration. The firm and the individuals composing it were, Nov. 27, 1871, adjudged bankrupts by the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Missouri, and, upon the application of creditors, a receiver of the estate and effects of the bankrupts was, by an ex parte order, appointed, with authority to demand and receive all property of every kind and description belonging to them.
An assignee in bankruptcy was afterwards appointed, to whom was conveyed, in the prescribed mode, all the real and personal estate of the bankrupts. First the receiver, and subsequently the assignee, each claiming to act under the authority of that court, demanded of the corporation, in the City of New Orleans, the surrender of the certificates. That demand, repeated more than once, and accompanied by copies of the orders of that court, was uniformly met with a refusal to surrender them, except upon the payment of the note for which they had been pledged. The corporation, by its president, expressed its willingness to surrender them, or have them sold, if an amount sufficient to pay the note was left in New Orleans, with the agent of the receiver and assignee, until proof of its debt should be made in the bankruptcy court. Neither the receiver nor the assignee assented to such an arrangement, but insisted upon the right to the actual custody of the certificates pending the proceedings in bankruptcy. The assignee, upon one occasion, authorized the president of the corporation to sell them, at not less than sixty-eight cents on the dollar, and retain the proceeds, without prejudice to the rights of either party, until the claim of the institution should be proven before a register in bankruptcy, and allowed. But a sale could not be made at that limit, and the authority to sell was withdrawn.
The corporation did not become a party to the proceedings in bankruptcy by proving its debt, or in any other mode.
This action by the assignee in bankruptcy, to recover of the corporation the value of the certificates, was based upon the ground that, by its refusal to surrender possession of them, it had converted them to its own use, and become liable therefor.
The corporation insisted that, having obtained the certificates in due course of business, and for a valuable consideration, it was entitled to hold them until the note should be fully paid.
There was a finding in favor of the corporation; and, judgment having been rendered thereon, Yeatman sued out this writ of error.