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SECURITY TRUST CO. V. DODD, MEAD & CO., 173 U. S. 624 (1899)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Security Trust Co. v. Dodd, Mead & Co., 173 U.S. 624 (1899)

Security Trust Co. v. Dodd, Mead & Co.

No. 188

Argued and submitted January 28, 1899

Decided April 11, 1899

173 U.S. 624


With regard to the operation of a voluntary or common law assignment of his property by an insolvent debtor for the benefit of his creditors upon property situated in other states, there is a general consensus of opinion that it will be respected, except so far as it comes in conflict with the rights of local creditors, or with the laws or public policy of the state in which it is sought to be enforced. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 173 U. S. 625

With respect to statutory assignments of the property of an insolvent debtor, the prevailing American doctrine is that a conveyance under a state insolvent law operates only upon property within the territory of that state, and with respect to property in another state it is given only such effect as the laws of that state permit, and in general must give way to claims of creditors pursuing their remedies there.

The execution and delivery by Merrill & Company to the Security and Trust Company in Minnesota of an assignment of their property for the benefit of their creditors, made under the insolvent laws of that state, and the acceptance thereof by the assignee and its qualification thereunder, and the notice thereof to Mudge & Sons in Massachusetts, who held personal property belonging to the said assignors, did not vest in the assignee such a title to that property that it could not, after such notice, be lawfully seized by attachment in an action instituted in Massachusetts by creditors of the insolvents who were citizens of New York, and who had notice of the assignment, but had not proved their claims against the assigned estate, nor filed a release thereof.

This was an action originally instituted in the District Court for the Second Judicial District of Minnesota by the Security Trust Company, as assignee of the D. D. Merrill Company, a corporation organized under the laws of Minnesota, against the firm of Dodd, Mead & Co., a partnership resident in New York, to recover the value of certain stereotyped and electrotyped plates for printing books, upon the ground that the defendants had unlawfully converted the same to their own use. The suit was duly removed from the state court to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota, and was there tried. Upon such trial, the following facts appeared:

The D. D. Merrill Company having become insolvent and unable to pay its debts in the usual course of business, on September 23, 1893, executed to the Security Trust Company, the plaintiff in error, an assignment under and pursuant to the provisions of chapter 148 of the Laws of 1881 of the Minnesota, which assignment was properly filed in the office of the clerk of the district court. The trust company accepted the same, qualified as assignee, took possession of such of the property as was found in Minnesota, and disposed of the same for the benefit of creditors, the firm of Dodd, Mead & Co. having full knowledge of the execution and filing of such assignment. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 173 U. S. 626

At the date of this assignment, the D. D. Merrill Company was indebted to Dodd, Mead & Co. of New York, in the sum of $1,249.98, and also to Alfred Mudge & Sons, a Boston co-partnership, in the sum of $126.80, which they duly assigned and transferred to Dodd, Mead & Co., making the total indebtedness to them $1,376.78.

Prior to the assignment, the D. D. Merrill Company was the owner of the personal property for the value of which this suit was brought. This property was in the custody and possession of Alfred Mudge & Sons at Boston, Massachusetts, until the same was attached by the sheriff of Suffolk County, as hereinafter stated.

The firm of Alfred Mudge & Sons was, prior to March 8, 1894, informed of the assignment by the Merrill Company, and at about the date of such assignment a notice was served upon them by George E. Merrill to the effect that he (Merrill) took possession of the property in their custody for and in behalf of the Security Trust Company, assignee aforesaid.

On March 8, 1894, Dodd, Mead & Co. commenced an action against the D. D. Merrill Company in the Superior Court of the County of Suffolk upon their indebtedness, caused a writ of attachment to be issued, and the property in possession of Mudge & Sons seized upon such writ. A summons was served by publication in the manner prescribed by the Massachusetts statutes, although there was no personal service upon the Merrill Company. The Security Trust Company, its assignee, was informed of the bringing and pendency of this suit and the seizure of the property, prior to the entering of a judgment in said action, which judgment was duly rendered August 6, 1894, execution issued, and on September 27, 1894, the attached property was sold at public auction to Dodd, Mead & Co., the execution creditors, for the sum of $1,000.

Upon this state of facts, the circuit court of appeals certified to this Court the following questions:

"First. Did the execution and delivery of the aforesaid deed of assignment by the D. D. Merrill Company to the Security Trust Company, and the acceptance of the same by

Page 173 U. S. 627

the latter company, and its qualification as assignee thereunder, vest said assignee with the title to the personal property aforesaid, then located in the State of Massachusetts, and in the custody and possession of said Alfred Mudge & Sons?"

"Second. Did the execution and delivery of said assignment and the acceptance thereof by the assignee, and its qualification thereunder in the manner aforesaid, together with the notice of such assignment which was given, as aforesaid, to Alfred Mudge & Sons prior to March 8, 1894, vest the Security Trust Company with such a title to the personal property aforesaid on said March 8, 1894, that it could not on said day be lawfully seized by attachment under process issued by the superior court of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, in a suit instituted therein by creditors of the D. D. Merrill Company, who were residents and citizens of the State of New York, and who had notice of the assignment, but had not proven their claim against the assigned estate nor filed a release of their claim?"

82 F.1d 05.

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