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U.S. Supreme Court

Garrard v. Lessee of Reynolds, 45 U.S. 4 How. 123 123 (1846)

Garrard v. Lessee of Reynolds

45 U.S. (4 How.) 123


In an action of ejectment where two of the plaintiff's lessors were married women and the demise was laid in the declaration to have been on 1 January, 1815, it was necessary to establish to the satisfaction of the jury that the marriage took place before that day, inasmuch as their husbands were stated to have joined in the demise.

Two depositions, taken in 1818, were given in evidence, one of which stated the death of the father of the women to have taken place "upwards of twenty years ago," and the other "about twenty-eight years ago." Both of the depositions, when enumerating the children of the deceased, mentioned the fact of the marriage without saying when such marriage took place.

In giving its instructions to the jury, the court remarked that "the depositions should be favorably construed." After retiring, the jury returned into court and inquired what was meant by the instruction that the "depositions should be favorably construed," when the court informed them that

"Where a suit was brought by A. and B. as man and wife, and a witness proved them man and wife shortly after the suit was brought, without proving the time at which they were intermarried, it might well be inferred that they were man and wife when the suit was instituted, and if there was an ambiguity in the deposition of William Rawle (the witness), it was in the power of the jury to find that the two femes covert had intermarried before 1 January, 1815."

The jury was further told that

"The depositions had been referred to the court, on a motion, on the part of the defendant, for a nonsuit, for want of proof of heirship and intermarriage of the daughters of Reynolds, at the date of the demise, 1 January, 1815, and that it seemed to the court that William Rawle (the witness) referred to the persons who were the heirs of Reynolds at the time of his death, and not at the time the deposition was taken, and refused the nonsuit, but the jury was not bound by the construction given by the court, and could give the deposition any construction they saw proper."

No exception having been taken to the opinion of the court overruling the motion for a nonsuit, the question whether, as matter of law, there was any evidence to be submitted to the jury going to establish the intermarriage at or before the time of the demise laid in the declaration was not before this Court.

And in the submission to the jury of the question of fact, whether or not the evidence proved the marriage before that time, there was no interference with the province of the jury or violation of any rule of law, the question having been left open for their finding.

There was therefore no error in the proceedings of the court below.

The facts in this case are set forth in the opinion of the Court.


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