First Among Equals:
Plaintiff's Win Collections Cases
By Adam Attwood
Source: Brown Brothers & Co. vs. Goodwin, White & Brothers (1862). Case 258. Frontier Justice Records. Washington State Archives-Eastern Branch, Cheney, WA.
Subject: Collections, Business
Synopsis: The following document is the “Opinion of the Court” filed May 9th 1862. It is a representative example of collections cases involving multiple interested parties. This document indicates the complications of an agricultural goods dispute between two companies. Each firm’s partners and several of their employees were questioned in order to render an appropriate judgment vis-à-vis the particulars of this case. Ultimately, the story was discovered, but some “discrepancy” of the amount of wheat delivered & owed was declared. The plaintiffs won, but still paid court costs.
Brown & Bros
Goodwin White & Co.
Filed May 9th 1862
B. N. Sexton
May 8th 1862 submitted to the Court by consent of counsel
In the District Court 1st Judicial District Court action
Territory of Washington
Walla Walla Co.
Brown Bros. & Co.
Goodwin White & Co.
This is an action instituted by Brown Bros. & Co. against Goodwin White & Co. to recover a balance due on book account for goods, wares, and merchandise sold and delivered by Plaintiffs to Defendants. There is no dispute as to the account except two items. One charged at $12 for a coat and one at $3.00 for a pair of drawers got by Geo. Driggs.
The whole amount of Plaintiffs account attached to the complaint and made part thereof is $180.60. [crossed out line] By the evidence it appeared that the coat and drawers were obtained by Driggs from Plaintiffs [crossed out word] and charged to the Defendants, without any order or authority on their part, and that they have been paid for by Driggs, as admitted by Plffs since the commencement of this Suit. These items amounting in the aggregate to the sum of 15[?] must be stricken from the account.
Defendants in their answer, claim as a further “set off” 88 2/3 bushels of wheat, at $3.00 per bushel, and when that the Plaintiffs are indebted to them the amount or difference between the account and these recoupments. From the evidence it appears that there was a contract of sale entered into between Goodwin, one of the firm of the Defendants, and Shediman, one of the firm of Brown & Bros. for all of the wheat of Defendants to Plaintiffs, as stated one of the witnesses. By an other witness the amount is fixed at about 200 bushels. According to the testimony of Driggs, the wheat was to be received by the Plaintiffs in three or four days from the date of the contract. The other witness Simms, who testified also to the contract, has no recollection of any time being specified as to the reception of the harvest.
Whether these two witnesses were present when the contract was made, after the manner of [?][?] does not definitely appear. Any apparent discrepancy that exists in this respect can be easily reconciled on the fair supposition there were two separate statements of the contract by the parties one of which was heard by Driggs alone, and the other by Simms, in the absence of Driggs. Simms was appeared to by Shediman in the presence of Goodwin, to know if he could receive the wheat in his mill, and the quantity being stated at 200 bushels, he replied that he would make room for that much. This then must be the agreement and arrangement under which the partner acted. The time of the contract is not definitely stated. All the witnesses agree in placing it [___?] the 15th to the 20th of Decr 1861. Mr Simms was in Walla Walla. When he left home, or [___?] of business, no wheat of either of the parties was in his mill. When his going home two, or three days after the contract, and after his agreement to receive the wheat, as above stated, he finds it. Simms away in the room adjoining the bran room, the peace where it was stored as shown by Defendants’ witnesses. From these circumstances and proofs, it is fairly to be presumed that that [sic] the wheat was delivered within two or three days of the making of the contract. Goodwin was the contracting party. White was the person who delivered the wheat. Whether he was ignorant of what looks [___?] between Shediman, Goodwin, and Simms. As soon as Simms got home, knowing the arrangement, and agreement, of Shediman’s and Goodman’s and himself, in the City of Walla Walla he treated the wheat as on storage for Brown Bros. & Co., or rather as his own for it had been presented by him of Brown & Brothers. He gives as the reason why it was credited in [___?] instead of in February December, that it was not weighed, and understood from some source that Mr. White wanted to be present at the weighting thereof. Have White & Clifton been acquainted with what had taken place in the City of Walla Walla between Goodwin, Stediman [sic ?] and Simms, this suite is most likely would never have been brought, or if brought on account of any delay of payment of the account of Plaintiffs, no defence of “Set-off” would have been made. There was a conservative reception (if the term may be used) of the wheat by Brown & Bros. in Walla Walla, known to Shediman Goodwin one of the firm of the Defendants, and an actual one, by Simms when he returned home, irrespective of the errors of his agents committed in ignorance of the true State of the facts. Mr Goodwin failed to communicate to White the management made by Brown & Bros. with Simms, about the reception and storage of the wheat Brown & Bros. are not to be the sufferers or losers through his lackes [?]. Besides, the delivery wheat having been received, as the Court thinks is established by the testimony in the Cause. The defining of it by the Defendants was a compliance with their pact of the contract, and if any loss had been occasioned, in any manner to the wheat, that loss would have fallen in Brown & Brows, and not Goodwin White & Co. The firm of Goodwin White & Co was the owner by the acts of their Co partner Shediman Goodwin, and that firm could not annul the contract, unless there had been a refusal on the part of Brown & Bros. to receive the wheat as stipulated. If there were any such refusal on the part of Brown & Bros. this Court has failed to perceive it from anything discussed by the Evidence in the Case.
The deep snow which occurred on the 2nd of December 1861, prevented the further delivery of the amount sold to Brown & Bros, and freed the party from blame.
There is some discrepancy as to the actual amount of the wheat delivered at Mr Simms mill. Thomas Black [___] estimated by the number of sacks, and the amount each would weigh, the wheat at 88 2/3 bushels. Mr Simms recollection after weighing, place the amount at 79 or 80 bushels. The amount credited by Plaintiff is 78.0 28/60. The Court fixed the amount at Eighty bushels (80).
This will leave the accounts between the parties to stand this.
Amount of Plaintiff account $180.60
De. due wheat 80 bus. As $1.00 per bushel $80.00
De. Driggs bill, coat & drawers 15.00 = 95.00
Bal due Plaintiffs this amount $85.60
and judgment sentenced for said amount to wit Eighty five dollars and sixty cents $85.60 without costs.
Transcribed by Adam Attwood