Dillon v. Barnard,
88 U.S. 430 (1874)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dillon v. Barnard, 88 U.S. 21 Wall. 430 430 (1874)

Dillon v. Barnard

88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 430


1. A demurrer to a bill in equity does not admit the correctness of averments as to the meaning of an instrument set forth in or annexed to the bill.

2. To create, for future services of a contractor, a lien upon particular funds of his employer, there must be not only the express promise of the employer to apply there in payment of such services, upon which the contractor relies, but there must be some act of appropriation on the part of the employer relinquishing control of the funds and conferring upon the contractor the right to have them thus applied when the services are rendered.

3. In an indenture of mortgage executed by a railroad corporation to trustees to secure bonds issued to raise moneys to pay off its existing indebtedness and to complete and equip its road, the corporation covenanted with the trustees, among other things, that the expenditure of all sums of money realized from the sale of the bonds should be made with the approval of at least one of the trustees and that his assent in writing should be necessary to all contracts made by the company before the same should be a charge upon any of the sums received from such sales. Held that a contractor, agreeing with the corporation to construct a portion of the road, and obtaining the assent of two of the trustees to his contract and subsequently doing the work, did not acquire any lien for the payment of his work under this covenant of the indenture upon the funds received by the corporation from the bonds.

The Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad Company, a corporation existing under the laws of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York, and having a railway (then partially constructed and subject to certain mortgages and other liens) between certain points in those states, on the 19th of March, 1866, by its indenture of mortgage of that date, conveyed to Berdell and others all its railways, rights, leases, privileges, and franchises, and all its property then owned or thereafter to be acquired, to be held by them and their successors in trust upon the terms and for the purposes set forth in the indenture. The object of its execution was to secure certain bonds of the company, in sums of $1,000 each, to the amount of $20,000,000, to be thereafter

Page 88 U. S. 431

issued and disposed of to raise the funds required to provide for and retire all the then existing mortgage debts and prior liens upon the line of its road, and to complete and equip the road and to lay down a third rail thereon. The road in its then existing state was of less value than the amount of the bonds proposed to be issued. The company, however, expected that upon its completion, the road would be of great value and afford ample security for the bonds.

The indenture provided that the mortgage should be the first and only lien on the property and franchises of the company when the existing mortgage debt was retired, and it contained the following covenants on the part of the company:

"1st. That of the bonds issued there shall be retained in the hands of the trustees such portion as will be equal to the whole amount of the bonds and mortgage notes outstanding from time to time, as a lien upon any of the property or franchises conveyed, to be delivered to the company only on the cancellation of a corresponding amount of such outstanding bonds or mortgage notes, and,"

"2d. That the expenditure of all sums of money realized from the sale of the bonds shall be made with the approval of at least one of the trustees, whose assent in writing shall be necessary to all contracts made by the company before the same shall be a charge upon any of the sums received from such sales."

In October, 1867, one Dillon entered into a contract with the corporation for the construction of a portion of its railroad at certain specified rates of compensation, the work to be commenced on the 1st of December, 1867, and completed on the 1st of June, 1869, payments to be made monthly of 90 percent of the work done as estimated by the engineer of the company, the remaining 10 percent to be retained until the completion of the work. This contract was approved and assented to in writing by two of the trustees under the mortgage.

After the work was done, but before the time fixed for payment for it came round, the company became bankrupt and had no property from which payment could be got except such as was then claimed under the mortgage and was now held by the trustees under it, certain persons who had

Page 88 U. S. 432

been substituted in the place of the original trustees. Assignees in bankruptcy having been appointed, Dillon accordingly filed a bill in the court below against the trustees and the assignees to get payment of what the company owed him.

The bill, having set forth the facts already mentioned, alleged that the railroad was at the time of the mortgage of small value because not completed, and alleged further that the better to attain the objects of the mortgage, namely, the acquisition of funds and the construction of the unbuilt portions of the road, and in order to induce other persons to enter into contracts for the construction and completion of the road, the agreement contained in the second or last abovementioned provision was made, and that such agreement was a part of the terms and trust under which the trustees held and were to hold the trust estate, and that according to such agreement, they and the corporation bound themselves and their successors to act, and that the contracts of the corporation assented to in writing by one of the trustees should and would be a charge upon the sums realized from the sale of the bonds issued. A copy of the indenture of mortgage and of the contract with the plaintiff was annexed to the bill.

The bill, referring now more specifically to the particular contract of Dillon further alleged that the purpose, object, intention, and understanding of the parties -- the corporation, the trustees, and the complainant -- in procuring the approval of the trustees in making the same, and in accepting the contract so approved was that the sums to become due to the complainant under the contract should be a charge upon the sums to be received from the sales of the bonds, no part of which, or a very inconsiderable part of which, had then been sold or disposed of; that the complainant thereafter undertook and performed work under his contract, and thereunder expended large sums of money, relying for his compensation on the sums of money to be derived from the sales of bonds, and his lien thereon by virtue of the premises as aforesaid; and that his reliance thereon was at all times well known to the corporation and to the trustees under the mortgage; that the work done

Page 88 U. S. 433

under the contract was accepted by the engineer of the company in charge, but for only a portion of the amount owing to him was the complainant paid; and that there remained due to him for this work over one million of dollars, with interest from the 1st of January, 1870.

It alleged further that a large amount of money was received by the company from the sales of the bonds issued, more than sufficient to pay the amount due the complainant, but that instead of being thus appropriated, it was expended in acquiring new property, to be held under the mortgage and in improving and increasing the value of the property then and since in the possession of the trustees.

It alleged in addition that the amounts due to the complainant became and were a charge and lien upon the money derived from the sale of the bonds; that the money thus raised became appropriated to, and ought to have been used and paid to discharge the debt to the complainant and to no other purpose; that it was within the power of the trustees and of the corporation to cause the same to be devoted to that purpose and to prevent the same from being devoted to any other purpose; that by virtue of the premises, the trustees and the corporation became bound to the complainant so to do and became trustees for his benefit for that purpose, under said indenture and agreement; that the trustees and corporation wrongfully permitted and suffered the money which ought to have been paid to the complainant to be otherwise expended to an amount exceeding the amount due to the complainant, and that at the present time, and on March 18, 1871, and on October 21, 1870, and long prior thereto, the plaintiff "had a valid and subsisting lien on the said property and franchises of said corporation, arising from and created" by the facts and proceedings set forth.

The bill prayed that the defendants might be declared trustees for the benefit of the complainant of the property held by them under the indenture to the extent of the amount of money and interest thereon which was due to the complainant and wrongfully expended in acquiring and improving

Page 88 U. S. 434

and adding value to said property, and trustees for the benefit of the complainant of so much of the property, and of the value in the hands of the trustees, as was acquired by and as is due to such wrongful expenditure, and for general relief.

To the bill the defendants demurred generally for want of equity. The circuit court sustained the demurrer and dismissed the bill, and the case is brought to this Court on appeal.

Page 88 U. S. 436

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