CHESAPEAKE & OHIO CANAL COMPANY V. KNAPP, 34 U. S. 541 (1835)Subscribe to Cases that cite 34 U. S. 541
U.S. Supreme Court
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company v. Knapp, 34 U.S. 9 Pet. 541 541 (1835)
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company v. Knapp
34 U.S. (9 Pet.) 541
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR
THE COUNTY OF WASHINGTON IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
District of Columbia. An action of indebitatus assumpsit was instituted to recover a large sum of money, alleged to be due for the construction of certain locks, &c., on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The defendants pleaded the general issue, and called on the plaintiffs for a bill of particulars. The item of claim upon which the jury gave a verdict for the plaintiffs, was stated in the bill of particulars to be, "detention and damage sustained for want of cement on locks No. 5 and 6."
There is no doubt that a bill of particulars should be so specific as to inform the defendant, substantially, on what the plaintiff's action is founded. This is the object of the bill, and if it fall short of this, its tendency must be to mislead the defendant, rather than to enlighten him.
As the bill of particulars is filed before the trial, it is always in the power of the defendant to object to its want of precision, and the court will require it to be amended before the commencement of the trial, and if this be not the only mode of taking advantage of any defect in the bill, it is certainly the most convenient for the parties.
Although this bill of particulars does not specify technically and fully the grounds on which the plaintiffs claim damages, it sufficiently expresses to the defendants that the claim arises for want of cement on locks No. 5 and 6.
The ancient doctrine that a corporation can act in matters of contract only under its seal has been departed from by modern decisions, and it is now considered that the agents of a corporation may, in many cases, bind it and subject it to an action of assumpsit. There can be no doubt that when a special contract remains open, the plaintiff's remedy, is on the contract, and he must set it forth specially in his declaration. But if the contract has been put an end to, the action for money had and received lies to recover any payment that has been made under it.
It is a well settled principle that where a special contract has been performed, a plaintiff may recover on the general counts.
The court ought not to instruct, and indeed cannot instruct, on the sufficiency of evidence, but no instruction to the jury should be given except upon evidence in the case. Where there is evidence on a point, the court may be called upon to instruct the jury on the law, but it is for them to determine on the effect of evidence.
This was an action of assumpsit, instituted originally in the County Court of Montgomery County in the State of Maryland, and by agreement of the parties transferred, with all the pleadings, depositions and other proceedings therein, to the Circuit chanrobles.com-red
Court of the United States for the County of Washington in the District of Columbia.
The declaration contained nine counts: the first, second, and third for goods sold and delivered; the fourth, fifth, eighth, and ninth for work, labor and services and for materials furnished, &c.; the sixth, for money paid, laid out and expended, and for money had and received for the use of the plaintiffs, and the seventh an insimul computassent. The defendants pleaded nonassumpsit, and issue was joined thereon. A rule having been entered on the plaintiffs to file a bill of particulars, the same was duly filed, setting forth all the items of claim against the defendants.
The plaintiffs, in the circuit court, had on 4 May, 1829, entered into articles of agreement with the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company to execute certain sections of the canal, then being made by the company, according to certain specifications before agreed upon by the parties. Under this agreement, the plaintiffs constructed eight locks on the canal, and this action was brought for the value of the work done and materials expended on the same, and for other matters which had arisen under the agreement.
The only item in the bill of particulars which was deemed material, and which came under examination and discussion by the counsel and the Court in the argument and decision of the cause, was the following:
"To detention for want of cement at proper times at locks No. 8, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 20; damages sustained in consequence of such detention $600."
The defendants in error read in evidence the specification for Lock No. 6, and their offer to contract for the construction of the said lock on the terms therein stated, and also a paper containing their proposal to execute the said lock according to the plan and the specification, and they proved that the proposals were accepted. They also read the agreement between them and the Canal Company, dated 4 May, 1828, for the construction of the work pursuant thereto, and also like specifications and proposals, and their acceptance by the parties, for the execution of the other eight locks, and the contract for the same; the execution of the work to be done by them under the said contract, being also proved. The specifications particularly described the work to be done, the materials chanrobles.com-red
to be used, and the manner and time of its execution. In the specifications there was inserted the following:
"It is believed that hydraulic cement, suitable for the construction of lock masonry, may be obtained on the Potomac as far east as Shepherdstown."
"Its average cost, it is presumed, will not exceed 40 cents the bushel, delivered at the shore opposite the locks; should it be found not suitable for the purpose and it become necessary to import the New York hydraulic cement or Parker's Roman cement, the president and directors will furnish to the contractor cement so imported in good season, say by 1 May, 1829, at the price of 40 cents the bushel, which shall be deducted from the sum to be paid for the lock if the contractor furnished the cement himself. The extent of its use, if it be so supplied, may be limited by the engineer to a certain distance from the face of the wall."
The proposals stated the prices at which the work was to be done, and the agreement set forth stipulations for the performance of the work, and the sums to be paid for the same, with other matters to secure and define the obligations of the parties thereto.
The plaintiffs also offered and read in evidence the following resolution of the President and Directors of the Canal Company, passed 2 September, 1829.
"Ordered that the board will furnish water lime to such contractors for masonry as shall provide houses to receive it, to be delivered at the river shore opposite to their works at 40 cents per bushel."
And also the following resolution of the said president and directors, passed 20 January, 1830.
"Resolved that although this board has stipulated to supply the contractors with water lime, yet the board will not be held responsible for any damage arising from the want of that article."
And also the answer of Theophilus Williams to an interrogatory on the part of the plaintiffs.
"To the thirty-second annexed interrogatory, this deponent replies that the plaintiffs were very greatly hindered in their operations by the want of cement. This deponent has no written memoranda of the time which the plaintiffs were so hindered, but believes that the time lost by the failure of the
defendants to furnish cement, was not less than one-third of the whole time from the 1 April to 1 August, 1830, and this deponent can further state that the opinion of the late resident engineer, Daniel Van Slyke, Esq., agreed with that of this deponent above stated, as to the proportion of the time lost by the plaintiffs for want of cement. Orders were given to the plaintiffs not to discharge their men when idle for want of cement, but to retain them all under pay until a supply could be procured. This order had not reference to any one particular time when the plaintiffs were hindered for want of cement. The deponent was directed by the resident engineer to communicate the order to the plaintiffs, and did accordingly communicate it to them. This was the usual course of transmitting orders to the contractors for the different works on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. This deponent received the same order at several different times from the president of the company. It was reiterated to the plaintiffs at various times, and was, as this deponent believes, strictly complied with by them. This order, as well as that referred to in the answer to the twentieth, was, according to this deponent's recollection, verbally given. This deponent cannot state with accuracy, to what extent the plaintiffs were delayed for want of cement previous to 1 April, but thinks there was some considerable for want of cement before that time. From what this deponent recollects of the number of men and teams employed by the plaintiffs, and the high wages paid to laborers generally, and more particularly to mechanics, and the expense of subsisting men and teams, this deponent is fully convinced that, including the wages of laborers and mechanics, the subsistence of men and teams, and the wear and tear of tools, the expense of the plaintiffs must have averaged, while hindered for want of cement, from $150 to $175 a day. The deponent cannot say with exactness what number of days the plaintiffs were compelled to suspend their operations for want of cement, but thinks the whole detention may have been equal to from thirty to forty entire days."
And also the answer of Milo Winchel, to an interrogatory on the part of the plaintiffs.
"To the ninth interrogatory, this deponent answering, says that the defendants delivered the cement very irregularly, in small quantities, which caused very great hindrance and loss
of time, and expense to these plaintiffs, by keeping a very large force of mechanics, common laborers, and teams lying idle and upon expense of wages and board whilst waiting for cement; the precise loss and damage incurred deponent cannot state, but, from his best recollection, would say that the loss of time thus incurred from 1 March, 1830, until the completion of the said locks in August therefrom could not be less than forty days, at an expense to these plaintiffs of from $160 to $170 per day, besides the damage was very serious by delaying the work until the sickly months of July and August, which was the cause of a great advance in all kinds of labor to induce laborers to remain upon the line of the canal at this season of the year; all this expense and risk might have been saved to these plaintiffs, had the cement been furnished as agreed on the part of the defendants, which would have enabled the plaintiffs to have completed the whole of their work early in June, 1830."
And also the answer of Henry Smith to an interrogatory on the part of the plaintiffs.
"To the eleventh interrogatory this deponent will answer that much delay was occasioned to the plaintiffs by the nondelivery of cement in quantities to meet their demands; the consequence was they were compelled to keep their hands under pay without labor, and deferring the completion of their work until the more sickly season, when labor, if procured at all, was obtained at an advance from twenty to thirty-three percent. It is believed by this deponent that if sufficient quantities had been delivered in season, that the locks would have been completed by 4 July. That, at the time locks No. 18 and 20 were in progress, the plaintiffs often complained of a scarcity of cement, and one particular time they were lying idle for a number of days with a large force of hands, and, as deponent understood at the time, they were all under pay from the plaintiffs. The number of days alluded to above is believed to be two weeks or more, and many other times deponent knows of there being a want of cement, but the aggregate cannot be positively stated."
And also the answer of Moses Randal to an interrogatory on the part of the plaintiffs.
"To the eighth interrogatory hereunto annexed this deponent,
answering, says that these plaintiffs were greatly hindered and delayed, nearly the whole time they were employed in building these locks, by the irregular manner in which the cement was delivered, and that the amount of such hindrance upon locks No. 15, 16, 17, 18 and 20, from 1 March, 1830, till their completion in August following, was not less than forty entire days, at an expense to these plaintiffs of $170 per day. There were eighteen days at one time in which the plaintiffs received but two small loads of cement for the use of two hundred men, being insufficient to supply them one day, besides the damage was very serious by protracting the work until the sickly months of July and August, which was the cause of a great advance in all kinds of labor, to induce the laborers to remain upon the line of the canal at this season of the year. All this risk might have been saved to these plaintiffs had the cement been furnished as promised on the part of the defendants, which would have enabled the plaintiffs to have completed their whole work early in June, 1830, and deponent further says that the plaintiffs suffered great hindrance and loss by the interference of the work under Messrs Bargy and Guy on section 18 by the breaking of the face stone by coming in contact with their carts and wagons and by the men's being driven from their work many times in a day to escape the dangers from the heavy rock blasting upon said section; the damage done to the plaintiffs during this interference deponent cannot precisely state, but knows it was great. This deponent recollects that in one instance, on Lock 18, a large rock was thrown against the wing wall of the lock and so deranged several courses of their work as to require relaying; in several other instances the work of the plaintiffs on Locks 17 and 18 was deranged by the falling stones breaking and displacing the cut stones in the wall. The plaintiffs remonstrated against these injuries, and threatened to abandon the work, in consequence of which Daniel Van Slyke, the agent of the defendants, agreed to indemnify them against all damages arising from this source."
And also the answers of Benjamin Wright to interrogatories put to him by the plaintiffs.
"To the ninth interrogatory he saith that he knows that in many cases the cement was very bad; in others, the same was damaged by having been allowed to get wet before delivery
to the plaintiffs. That it was furnished by the defendants in small quantities, and in a very irregular manner, and in many cases not furnished at the times agreed upon between the plaintiffs and dependants, it being expressly understood between the plaintiffs and defendants, that the cement should at all times be furnished as it was required for the prosecution of the work."
"To the tenth interrogatory he saith that he knows the plaintiffs were put to serious loss and damage in consequence of the failure of the defendants in supplying cement, as stated in the last interrogatory, the said plaintiffs being obliged to keep their laborers and mechanics in pay when they were actually unemployed, said plaintiffs being in the daily expectation of receiving the said cement, which state of things continued in some instances for a week together, and at others for two, four, and six days, and deponent further knows that, in consequence of such failure on the part of the defendants to furnish the cement at the periods agreed upon, the work of the plaintiffs was necessarily protracted to the sickly part of the season, which necessarily caused a great increase in the wages of the mechanics and laborers to induce them to remain during the said period. Deponent further saith that he knows that the president of the company on many occasions directed the plaintiffs not to dismiss their men, stating from time to time that he would have cement furnished which in many cases was not furnished in compliance with his assurances, but deponent cannot say what was the actual loss incurred by the plaintiffs, although, as above stated, he believes it to have been very serious."
Upon which testimony the plaintiffs prayed the court to instruct the jury, and it did on the said prayer instruct the jury that if the jury believes from the said evidence that the defendants had, on 2 September, 1829, and from that time till 20 January, 1830, contracted with the plaintiffs to furnish them with cement, &c., in due time, &c., and that the plaintiffs, expecting that sufficient supplies of cement to go on with the work would be furnished by the defendants, as defendants had so engaged to do, hired a large number of hands and brought them to the locks, and when the defendants had so failed to furnish the cement, kept the same hands idle, waiting for cement, on the defendants' chanrobles.com-red
desire that they should do so, in order to be ready to go on with the work, and paid them their wages while so waiting, then the plaintiffs are entitled under the count for money laid out and expended, contained in this declaration, to recover the money so paid to said hands during such periods. But that the plaintiffs are not entitled to recover for wages paid to their workmen on account of a deficiency of cement after the said 20 January, 1830, unless the jury shall be satisfied by the said evidence that the said resolution of the board of directors of 20 January, 1830, was rescinded by the said board, and a new contract entered into thereafter by the defendants of furnish cement to the plaintiffs, and the subsequent failure on their part so to furnish it, and an agreement also to pay for the wages of the plaintiffs' workmen, while so waiting, and so forth.
The defendants excepted to this instruction.
The jury found a verdict for the plaintiffs for $20,707.56, on which judgment was entered by the court, and the defendants prosecuted this writ of error. chanrobles.com-red
MR. JUSTICE McLEAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The defendants here, who were plaintiffs in the circuit court, commenced an action of assumpsit to recover a large sum alleged to be due for the construction of certain locks, &c., from the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company, and filed their declaration containing nine general counts of indebitatus assumpsit for work done and materials found, money laid out and expended, an account stated, &c., and the defendants pleaded the general issue. On the trial, several exceptions were taken to the ruling of the court by the plaintiffs, and one exception was taken by the defendants, which presents the points for decision on the present writ of error.
The following is the instruction referred to.
"In the further trial of this cause, and after the evidence and instructions stated in the preceding bills of exceptions had been given, and after evidence offered by the plaintiffs, of the payment of moneys to the laborers for the time during the detention, occasioned by the want of cement on Locks 5 and 6, the plaintiffs, by their counsel, prayed the court to instruct the jury that if the jury believes from the said evidence that the defendants had, on 2 September, 1829, and from that time till 20 January, 1830, contracted with the plaintiffs to furnish
them with cement necessary, &c., in due time, &c., and that the plaintiffs, expecting that sufficient supplies of cement to go on with the work would be furnished by the defendants, as defendants had so engaged to do, hired a large number of hands, and brought them to the Locks, and when the defendants had so failed to furnish the cement, kept the same hands idle, waiting for cement, on the defendants' desire that they should do so in order to be ready to go on with the work, and paid them their wages while so waiting, then the plaintiffs are entitled, under the count for money laid out and expended contained in the declaration to recover the money so paid to said hands during such periods. But that the plaintiffs are not entitled to recover for wages paid to their workmen, on account of a deficiency of cement, after the said 20 January, 1830, unless the jury shall be satisfied by the said evidence, that the said resolution of the board of directors, of 20 January, 1830, was rescinded by the said board, and a new contract entered into thereafter by the defendants, to furnish cement to the plaintiffs, and the subsequent failure on their part so to furnish it, and an agreement also to pay for the wages of the plaintiffs' workmen while so waiting,"
The resolution referred to in the bill of exceptions is in the words following:
"Resolution of the Board of Directors of the Canal Company in meeting January 20, 1830. Resolved that although this board has stipulated to supply the contractors with water lime, yet the board will not be held responsible for any damages arising from the want of that article."
A bill of particulars was filed by the plaintiffs under the order of the court, and in which bill the following item is charged. "Detention and damage sustained, for want of cement in Locks No. 5 and 6 -- $600."
This case has been ably argued on both sides, and the questions involved in it are of much practical importance.
The counsel for the plaintiffs in error object to the bill of particulars, and insist that the above item for damage for want of cement, &c., is not sufficiently specific, as it does not apprise the defendants of all the facts on which the charge for damage is made. It does not state how the damage was sustained by the plaintiffs, and on what ground an indemnity chanrobles.com-red
was claimed of the defendants. A bill of particulars, it is contended, when demanded, becomes a part of the declaration, and with the exception of certain averments, it should contain equal certainty.
There can be no doubt that a bill of particulars should be so specific, as to inform the defendant, substantially, on what the plaintiff's action is founded. This is the object of the bill, and if it fall short of this, its tendency must be to mislead the defendant, rather than to enlighten him.
As the bill of particulars is filed before the trial, it is always in the power of the defendant to object to its want of precision, and the court will require it to be amended before the commencement of the trial. And if this be not the only mode of taking advantage of any defect in the bill, in practice it is certainly the most convenient for the parties.
In 4 Taun. 188, the court of common pleas say substantially,
"if a bill of particulars specifies the transaction upon which the plaintiff's claim arises, it need not specify the technical description of the right which results to the plaintiff out of that transaction."
In that case, the plaintiff declared for goods sold and delivered, and for money paid, and delivered to the defendant a bill of particulars, viz., "To 17 firkins of butter, £55, 6 shillings, not saying for goods sold."
The court decided that the action could be sustained on the count for money paid. And they remark, as to the objection taken respecting the bill of particulars, bills of
"particulars are not to be construed with all the strictness of declarations; this bill of particulars has no reference to any counts, and it sufficiently expresses to the defendant that the plaintiff's claim arises on account of the butter."
And we think, in the present case, that although the bill of particulars does not specify technically and fully the grounds on which the plaintiffs claim damages, yet, in the language of the above case, it sufficiently expresses to the defendants that the claim arises for want of cement in Locks No. 5 and 6.
But the ground on which some reliance seems to be placed for the reversal of this judgment, and which, in the view of the court, is one of the principal points presented by the record, is that the jury were instructed to find for the plaintiffs below, on chanrobles.com-red
proof of a special contract, and under a declaration containing only general counts.
By the instruction of the court, if the jury found, from the evidence, that the contract had been made by the defendants, as stated, and that the money had been paid to the hands detained for want of cement, the plaintiffs were entitled to a verdict on the count for money laid out and expended.
In the argument, it was contended, that there was no legal proof of the special contract. That a corporation can only contract within the terms of its charter, and that there does not appear to have been any action of the board, sanctioning the contract as insisted on by the plaintiffs.
The ancient doctrine, that a corporation can act in matters of contract only under its seal, has been departed from by modern decisions, and it is now considered, that the agents of a corporation may in many cases bind it, and subject it to an action of assumpsit. But it is unnecessary to examine either the ancient or modern doctrine on this subject; for as no exception was taken to the evidence which conduced to prove a special contract in the court below, the objection cannot be raised in this Court.
There can be no doubt that where the special contract remains open, the plaintiff's remedy is on the contract, and he must set it forth specially in his declaration. But if the contract has been put an end to, the action for money had and received, lies to recover any payment that has been made under it. The case of Towers v. Barrett, 1 Term 133, illustrates very clearly and fully this doctrine. In that case, the plaintiff recovered, on a count for money had and received, ten guineas paid to the defendant for a one horse chaise and harness, which were to be returned on condition the plaintiff's wife should not approve of the purchase, paying 3 shillings and 6 pence per diem for the hire, should they be returned, and as the plaintiff's wife did not approve of the purchase, they were returned, and the hire was tendered at the same time. "But if the contract remain open, the plaintiff's demand for damages arises out of it, and then he must state the special contract, and the breach of it."
It is a well settled principle, where a special contract has been performed, that a plaintiff may recover on the general chanrobles.com-red
counts. This principle is laid down by this Court in the case of Bank of Columbia v. Patterson's Administrators, 7 Cranch 299, 2 Cond. 501. In that case, the Court said:
"We take it to be incontrovertibly settled that indebitatus assumpsit will lie to recover the stipulated price due on a special contract not under seal where the contract has been executed, and that it is not in such case necessary to declare upon the special agreement."
It would be difficult to find a case more analogous in principle to the one under consideration than the above. The same questions, as to the right of the plaintiff to recover on the general counts where the special agreement was performed, and also as to the powers of a corporation to bind itself through the instrumentality of agents, were raised and decided in that case as are made in this one. And it would seem, where this Court had decided the point in controversy, and which decision had never afterwards been controverted, that the question is not open for argument. But whether this doctrine be considered as established by the adjudications of this Court or the sanction of other courts, it is equally clear that no principle involved in the action of assumpsit can be maintained by a greater force of authority.
In 1 Bacon's Ab. 380 it is laid down that
"Wherever the consideration on the part of the plaintiff is executed, and the thing to be done on the defendant's part is mere payment of a sum of money due immediately, or where money is paid on a contract which is rescinded, so that defendant has no right to retain it; this constitutes a debt for which the plaintiff may declare in the general count on an indebitatus assumpsit. Anciently the count in such cases was special, stating the consideration as executory, the promise, the plaintiff's performance, and the defendant's breach, but the indebitatus has grown, by degrees, into use."
"So also if goods are sold and actually delivered to the defendant, the price, if due in money, may be recovered on this count, and this though the price is settled by third parties."
1 Bos. & Pull. 397; 12 East 1.
"Where the plaintiff let to the defendant land rent free, on condition that the plaintiff should have a moiety of the crops, and while the crop of the second year was on the ground, it was appraised for both
parties and taken by defendant; it was held that the plaintiff might recover his moiety of the value in indebitatus assumpsit, for crops, &c., sold, for by the appraisement, the special agreement was executed, and a price fixed at which the defendant bought the plaintiff's moiety."
The same principle is found in Helps v. Winterbottom, 2 B. & A. 431; Brooke v. White, 1 New Rep. 330; Robson v. Godfrey, Holt 236; Heron v. Gronger, 5 Esp. 269; Ingram v. Shirley, 1 Stark. 185; Forsyth v. Jervis, 1 Stark. 437; Harrison v. Allen, 9 Moore 28; Bailey v. Gouldsmith, Peake 56; Gandall v. Pontigny, 1 Stark. 198; Farrar v. Nightingale, 2 Esp. 639; Riggs v. Lindsay, 7 Cranch 500, 2 Cond. 585; James v. Cotton, 7 Bing. 266; Administrators of Foster v. Foster, 2 Binn. 4; Lykes v. Summerel, 2 Browne 227.
As, by the instruction of the court, the jury must have found the contract executed by the plaintiffs below, before they rendered a verdict in their favor; we think the question has been settled by the adjudged cases above cited, and that on this point there is no error in the instruction of the court.
But it is insisted that in their instruction, the court lays down certain facts as proved which should have been left to the jury. If this objection shall be sustained by giving a fair construction to the language of the court, the judgment must be reversed, for the facts should be left with the jury, whose peculiar province it is to weigh the evidence and say what effect it shall have.
The instruction states,
"That if the jury believe from the said evidence that the defendants had on, &c., contracted with the plaintiffs, expecting that sufficient supplies of cement to go on with the work would be furnished by the defendants, as defendants had so engaged to do, hired a large number of hands and brought them to the Locks, and, when the defendants had so failed to furnish the cement, kept the said hands,"
The words italicized are those objected to, as assuming the facts stated to be proved, and consequently superseding an inquiry into those facts by the jury.
It must be observed that in the first part of the instruction, the jury were told
"That if they believe from the said evidence that the defendants had contracted with the plaintiffs to furnish
them with cement necessary, &c., in due time, &c., and the plaintiffs expecting that the cement would be furnished, as defendants had so engaged to do, &c.,"
making the words italicized to depend upon proof of the contract, viz., the furnishing of the cement in due time, as stated in the bill of exceptions; it would therefore seem to be clear that these words could not have withdrawn from the jury any fact, as they were made to depend on the establishment of the contract by the finding of the jury. And the same remark applies to the other words objected to -- that is, when "the defendants had so failed to furnish the cement," for these words could have had no influence with the jury, unless the evidence, by their finding, not only established the contract to deliver the cement, but also showed a failure by the defendants to deliver it.
It therefore appears that the words objected to in the instruction, when viewed in connection with its scope and the language used, did not assume facts by which the jury could have been misled, but stated them as resulting from the finding of the jury, that the contract had been made and broken by the defendants, as hypothetically stated in the instruction.
It is objected, that there was no evidence in the case, conducing to prove the facts on which the above instruction was founded.
The court ought not to instruct, and indeed cannot instruct on the sufficiency of evidence, but no instruction should be given, except upon evidence in the case. Where there is evidence on the point, the court may be called on to instruct the jury as to the law, but it is for them to determine on the effect of the evidence.
In the present case, there was evidence, which was not objected to, conducing to prove the contract, hypothetically stated in the instruction, and in such case, whatever ground there might have been for a new trial, there is none for the reversal of the judgment.
The instruction was limited to the damages sustained by the plaintiffs, for a failure to deliver cement by the defendants, for the construction of Locks numbered Five and Six, and as the bill of particulars charges the damages thus sustained at $600 only, and the damages assessed by the jury amount to the sum of $20,707.56 cents, it is contended by the chanrobles.com-red
counsel for the plaintiffs in error, that on these facts the judgment should be reversed.
In the course of the trial twelve bills of exceptions were taken by the plaintiffs to the rulings of the court on the various points raised; but these exceptions are not now before the Court for decision. It is insisted, however, that although the questions of law raised by these exceptions are not before the court; yet the facts, in regard to the evidence which is shown by the exceptions, are before them, and should be considered in reference to the point now under examination.
In the eleventh bill of exceptions, after certain prayers by the plaintiffs' counsel, which were refused by the court, the defendants, by their counsel,
"prayed the court to instruct the jury, that the plaintiffs are not entitled to recover damages under either of the courts in the declaration in this cause, by reason of any failure on the part of the defendants to deliver cement to the plaintiffs for the prosecution of their work on the Locks contracted to be built by them, which the court gave as prayed."
And in the twelfth exception they gave a similar instruction, on the prayer of the defendants.
From these exceptions and others taken by the plaintiffs below, and the bill of particulars, it is contended, that it sufficiently appears there was no evidence before the jury under the instructions of the court, except that which conduced to show the amount of damages sustained by the plaintiffs, for the want of cement in the construction of Locks five and six.
If it were proper to look into the exceptions of the plaintiffs below to ascertain this fact, there would still be no difficulty in overruling the objection, for the instruction given on the prayer of the plaintiffs below, and excepted to by the defendants, and which is the error complained of, may be reconciled with the other exceptions, on the ground that additional evidence was heard by the jury before the instruction was given.
But if this were not the case, it would afford no ground for the reversal of the judgment of the circuit court.
Whether the court erred or not in refusing to give the various instructions prayed for by the plaintiffs below, is not now a subject of inquiry. It may be admitted that they did err, so that if the verdict had not been satisfactory to the chanrobles.com-red
plaintiffs, they might have reversed the judgment on a writ of error; yet the evidence on which those instructions were refused remained in the cause for the action of the jury. And as additional evidence was given, as appears by the exception of the defendants below, the cause was submitted to the jury upon the whole evidence.
Whether the jury assessed the damages on account of the injury sustained by the plaintiffs, for the want of cement in the construction of Locks other than those numbered five and six, or on account of other items stated in the bill of particulars, it is impossible for this Court to determine. If the jury failed to observe the instructions of the court or found excessive damages, the only remedy for the defendants was by a motion for a new trial. As the case now stands, we are limited to the legal questions which arise from the instruction given on the prayer of the plaintiffs, which was excepted to by the defendants, and on which this writ of error has been brought. And as it appears from the views already presented, that the circuit court in giving this instruction did not err, the judgment below must be
Affirmed with costs.
This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Columbia holden in and for the County of Washington, and was argued by counsel, on consideration whereof, it is ordered and adjudged by this Court, that the judgment of the said circuit court in this cause be, and the same is hereby affirmed with costs and damages at the rate of six percentum per annum.