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U.S. Supreme Court

Smithmeyer v. United States, 147 U.S. 342 (1893)

Smithmeyer v. United States

No. 645

Submitted January 9, 1893

Decided January 23, 1893

147 U.S. 342


By sec. 7 of the Act of October 2, 1888, 25 Stat. 505, 523, c. 1069, in regard to the building for the Library of Congress, which provided that all contracts for the construction of the building should be made by the Chief of Engineers of the Army, and repealed so much of the Act of April 15, 1886, 24 Stat. 12, c. 50, as required the construction of the building according to the plan submitted by John L. Smithmeyer, and enacted that

"hereafter, until otherwise ordered by Congress, no work shall he done in the construction of said library except such as is herein provided for, and all contracts for work or materials not necessary for

Page 147 U. S. 343

the execution of the work contemplated herein are hereby rescinded,"

it was provided that "all loss or damage occasioned thereby or arising under said contracts, together with the value of the plan for a Library building," so submitted by Smithmeyer, "may be adjusted and determined by the Secretary of the Interior, to be paid out of the sums heretofore or hereby appropriated." Smithmeyer and his partner afterwards brought a suit in the Court of Claims against the United States, to recover $210,000 as the value of plans and drawings made by them for a building for the Library, which were delivered to and accepted by the United States, and used in constructing the building. The Court of Claims held that the acts of the parties indicated that the services of the plaintiffs should be estimated according to the rule of quantum meruit, and not according to the schedule of charges of the American Institute of Architects, and that they were entitled to recover $8,000 a year for six years' services. Held that that was a proper and reasonable decision.

Although the United States did not appeal, this Court considered the question of the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims, and held that, as the right of action of the plaintiffs accrued in 1886, and the Court of Claims from that time had full jurisdiction over it under its general jurisdiction, and as the general jurisdictional act of that court was not repealed by the act of 1888, to the extent of this case, the plaintiffs could waive the benefit of the additional method of adjustment provided by the act of 1888, and the general jurisdiction of that court and such additional method could both of them well stand together.

This was an appeal from a judgment in the appellants' favor in the Court of Claims for $48,000 damages, their demand sued for being $210,000. No appeal was taken by the government.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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