Clement v. Field,
147 U.S. 467 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Clement v. Field, 147 U.S. 467 (1893)

Clement v. Field

No. 111

Submitted January 3, 1893

Decided January 30, 1893

147 U.S. 467


In Kansas, in an action of replevin to enforce a chattel mortgage of a machine sold to the defendant by the plaintiff and mortgaged back to secure the purchase money, the defendant may set up as a defense failure of the machine to do the work guaranteed and damage to him from delay in the delivery, and if the jury pass upon these issues, the judgment on their verdict is a bar to a subsequent action by the purchaser of the machine against the vendor to recover damages for such failure and such delay.

Gardner v. Risher, 35 Kan. 93, distinguished from Kennett v. Fickel, 41 Kan. 211.

This action was commenced in the District Court of Rice County, Kansas, August 10, 1885, by the plaintiffs in error, and in the following month, after the pleadings were filed, was removed into the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Kansas. The essential averments of the petition are that on or before June 22, 1883, W. P. Clement, M. B. Clement, and Charles Eustis, partners doing business under the firm name of Clement, Eustis & Co., were engaged in raising sorghum cane and manufacturing sugar and molasses therefrom in Rice County, Kansas, and that J. A. Field and Alexander McGee, of St. Louis, Missouri, partners doing business

Page 147 U. S. 468

under the firm name of J. A. Field & Co., were engaged in making cane mills; that on or about that date, Clement, Eustis & Co., the plaintiffs, employed J. A. Field & Co., the defendants, to make for them a certain kind of cane mill, to be delivered on board the cars in St. Louis on or before August 1, 1883, and agreed to pay for the same the sum of $1,850 -- $500 cash in hand, $500 on November 1, 1883, and $850 on November 1, 1884, with interest at six percent per annum on the second deferred payment from the said date of shipment, and that promissory notes were given by the plaintiffs for the deferred payments, secured by a chattel mortgage on the mill. The plaintiffs averred that the defendants warranted the mill to be as good, and to be capable of doing as much work and as good work as any mill made, and promised, in case of its failure to operate as warranted, to replace it at their own expense with a mill that would so operate or refund the purchase money; that the mill proved not to be as warranted; that the defendants failed, neglected, and refused to perform their contract regarding the said warranty, and that the mill was not delivered on board the cars in St. Louis until August 15, 1883, by reason of which delay, as well as by the said breach of warranty, the plaintiffs were deprived of profits which they should have realized and were compelled to incur certain expenses whereby they sustained damages which they sought in the action to recover.

The answer denied generally the averments of the petition and contained several special defenses, one of which was that on October 2, 1884, the said defendants brought an action against the said plaintiffs in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Kansas to recover possession of the said mill, alleging that they were entitled thereto by reason of an alleged breach of the conditions of said chattel mortgage and that their interest in the mill amounted to the value of the said promissory notes, with interest, or $1,450; that the plaintiffs filed an answer to that petition, alleging that the defendants had no interest in the mill and that nothing was due on account of the notes for the reason that the mill was not shipped on August 1, 1883, and that it did not prove to be

Page 147 U. S. 469

as warranted, whereby the defendants became liable to the plaintiffs for damages in a sum greater than the amount of the notes and interest, and asking that the alleged damages might be set off against the notes and interest, and that the plaintiffs might have judgment for such balance over the amount of the defendants' claim.

The answer averred that the action of replevin was tried upon its merits before the court and jury; that the jury found that the defendants were entitled to possession of the mill, and that the value of their interest therein was $1,151.20; that in accordance with the verdict, judgment was duly entered, and that by reason thereof the plaintiffs had had a former recovery against the defendants upon the cause of action set out in the petition to which the answer is addressed.

The reply of the plaintiffs admitted that the defendants brought the action of replevin, and that the plaintiffs appeared therein, and sought to have judgment for their damages sustained by reason of the said breach of contract and warranty, but averred that they were not permitted by the court to make such defense to the action, and that their damages were not therein adjudicated.

The case came on for trial December 7, 1887, in the said circuit court of the United States, and, a jury being waived, was tried by the court. The defendants produced for the inspection of the court the record in the replevin action and offered other evidence which in the opinion of the court showed that the property sought to be recovered in that action was the same property mentioned in the petition in the present case; that the notes and chattel mortgage in the action of replevin were the same notes and mortgage described in the said petition; that the claims for damages in that action were based upon the same grounds as the causes of action set out in the said petition; that the replevin action was tried upon its merits, and submitted to a jury upon the evidence and the instructions of the court, and determined as stated in the answer in the present suit; that the defendants in that action (plaintiffs in this case in the court below) introduced evidence tending to establish their said claim for damages, and that

Page 147 U. S. 470

none of the evidence offered in support of such claim for damages was ruled out by the court or excluded from the jury.

The court thereupon decided that the plaintiffs had had a former recovery against the defendants upon the cause of action set up and tried in the replevin proceedings; that the proceedings and judgment therein constituted a complete bar to the plaintiffs' cause of action herein, and gave judgment for the defendants.

The plaintiffs then moved for a new trial. This motion was overruled, whereupon they brought the case before this Court upon a writ of error.

Page 147 U. S. 472

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