Northern Pacific Railroad v. Paine,
119 U.S. 561 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Northern Pacific Railroad v. Paine, 119 U.S. 561 (1887)

Northern Pacific Railroad v. Paine

Argued December 13, 1886

Decided January 10, 1887

119 U.S. 561


In the courts of the United States, as legal defenses only can be interposed to legal actions, a defendant who has equitable grounds for relief against a plaintiff must seek to enforce them by a separate suit in equity, and this rule prevails in states where the law and practice permits

Page 119 U. S. 562

the defendant in an action at law to set up a legal as well as an equitable defense.

When, under the law and practice in a state, a denial in one clause in an answer in a suit begun in a court of the state and removed to a federal court is held to be qualified by an admission in another, and to excuse the plaintiff from the necessity of proof of it, the same rule prevails in the federal court.

A mere equitable claim, which a court of equity may enforce, will not sustain an action at law for the recovery of land or of anything severed from it.

The instruction requested by plaintiff was properly refused as it assumed a knowledge by plaintiff which was not proved.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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