Lewis v. Wilson,
151 U.S. 551 (1894)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lewis v. Wilson, 151 U.S. 551 (1894)

Lewis v. Wilson

No. 208

Submitted January 17, 1894

Decided February 5, 1894

151 U.S. 551


When a party who has obtained a verdict which the court deems excessive consents to its reduction, and judgment is thereupon entered for the reduced sum, and the plaintiff receives that sum and acknowledges its receipt "in full satisfaction of this judgment," he may not repudiate the whole transaction and obtain a judgment for the full amount of the verdict on the ground that the court had no power to disturb the verdict.

A plaintiff may, in open court, consent to a reduction of a verdict, and the noting thereof in the journal entry of the judgment is sufficient evidence thereof.

The facts in this case are as follows: plaintiff in error (the plaintiff below) brought suit against the defendants to recover damages for libel. At the December, 1887, term, and on April 9, 1888, a jury returned a verdict in his favor, assessing the damages at $10,000. On April 16, 1888, the defendants filed a motion for a new trial on the ground that the damages were excessive. After the entry of this motion the following appears of record.

"Edward H. Lewis"

"vs. December Term, 1887. Libel."

"Geo. C. Wilson et al."

"After the rendition of the verdict of the jury in this action, and a motion by the defendants for a new trial on the ground that the damages assessed by the jury were excessive, the court said from the bench that the defendants' motion would be granted unless the plaintiff consents to reduce the verdict from ten to five thousand dollars, as the verdict is clearly excessive if we eliminate all damages which arose out of the claim of the plaintiff for special damages to his business in Texas, and to which he could lay no claim under the pleading and evidence in this case, and which the court withdrew from the consideration of the jury. "

Page 151 U. S. 552

"And the court further said, if the plaintiff consents to reduce the verdict to five thousand dollars in pursuance of this suggestion, and the defendants decline to pay the judgment for that amount, and desire to prosecute a writ of error to the supreme court, then, in that event, judgment will be entered up for the sum of ten thousand dollars upon the verdict of the jury."

"And afterwards, to-wit, on the 23d day of April, A.D. 1888, comes the plaintiff, by his attorney, and enters his consent to the reduction of the verdict of the jury to the sum of five thousand dollars."

"And then come the defendants, by their attorney, and submit to pay the said five thousand dollars."

"It is therefore considered by the court that the plaintiff, Edward H. Lewis, do have and recover of and from the defendants: Geo. C. Wilson; John N. C. Stockton; Mumby, Stockton & Knight, composed of Frank W. Mumby, John N.C. Stockton, and Raymond D. Knight; Wightman & Christopher, composed of William S. Wightman and John G. Christopher; A. W. Owens; Daniel G. Ambler; George F. Drew; J. M. Lee; C. B. Smith; George Hughes; J. M. Barrs; Samuel Barton; F. P. Fleming; J. R. Tysen; C. E. Garner; John N. C. Stockton, trustee; F. W. Hawthorne, C.P. Cooper; J. S. Smith, Jr.; James P. Taliaferro; James M. Fairlie; A. W. Cockrell; Charles W. Da Costa; W. B. Young; J. R. Cambell; T. E. Stribling; Roswell H. Mason; B. M. Baer; A. W. Barrs, J. E. T. Bowden; James M. Kreamer, and Telfair Stockton, the sum of five thousand dollars and his costs, taxed at $644.25."

"Comes now the plaintiff, Edward H. Lewis, by H. Bisbee, his attorney, on this the 27th day of April, A.D. 1888, and acknowledges the receipt of five thousand six hundred and forty-four and 25/100 in full satisfaction of this judgment."

"H. Bisbee, Atty"

Thereafter this motion was filed:

Page 151 U. S. 553

"In the Circuit Court of the United States, Northern District of Florida."

"Edward H. Lewis"

"vs. Libel. Damages, $100,000."

"Geo. C. Wilson et al."

"Comes now the plaintiff, by H. Bisbee, his attorney, and moves the court for a judgment on the verdict of the jury in the case, rendered on the 9th day of April, A.D. 1888, nunc pro tunc as of the date when it should have been rendered, according to law and the practice of this Court, on the following grounds:"

"1st. Because said verdict was and is a legal verdict, duly rendered, and has not been set aside or modified by the court, nor in pursuance of any act or order of the court, or any judge thereof, acting within its or his jurisdiction."

"2d. That all proceedings in this suit had and entered on the files of the court, its minutes, dockets, and records, of the date of said verdict, are null and void for want of jurisdiction of the court."

"3d. Because the defendants could not make the motion for a new trial which they did make on the 16th day of April, A.D. 1888, on the ground that the laws of the State of Florida prohibited defendants from making a motion for a new trial after the expiration of four days from the date of the verdict rendered on the 9th day of April, A.D. 1888, and any action had on such motion was not within the jurisdiction of the court."

"4th. Because plaintiff cannot apply to the supreme court for a writ of mandamus to order the court to enter judgment upon a verdict until a motion for such judgment has been refused, nor can defendant take a writ of error until a judgment on the verdict is entered up."

"If the court enter judgment nunc pro tunc on the verdict for $10,000 plaintiff hereby offers, and hereby binds himself, to credit upon on said judgment the sum of $5,000 paid by defendants on plaintiff's claim, April 27th, A.D. 1888."

"Nov. 29th, 1889."

"H. Bisbee, Atty. for Plaintiff."

"To Messrs. A. W. Cockrell & Son, of counsel for defendants. "

Page 151 U. S. 554

This motion was overruled after argument of counsel, and exceptions taken. Thereupon the record was removed into this Court by a writ of error, the writ being signed April 23, 1890, just two years after the date of the judgment.

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