132 U.S. 152
10 S.Ct. 41
33 L.Ed. 301
November 18, 1889.
[Statement of Case from pages 152-155 intentionally omitted]
Charles Marshall and John Howard, for plaintiff in error.
S. F. Phillips, for defendant in error.
The sufficiency and scope of pleadings, and the form and effect of verdicts, in actions at law, are matters in which the circuit courts of the United States are governed by the practice of the courts of the state in which they are held. Rev. St. § 914; Bond v. Dustin, 112 U. S. 604, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 296. By the Code of Civil Procedure of North Carolina, the complaint is required to contain a plain and concise statement of the facts constituting the cause of action, and to have each material allegation distinctly numbered. Section 93. The answer must contain 'a general or special denial of each material allegation controverted by the defendant, or of any knowledge or information thereof, sufficient to form a belief,' and 'a statement of any new matter constituting a defense or counter-claim, in ordinary and concise language.' Section 100. In the absence of a counter-claim, no replication is necessary, unless ordered by the court. Section 105. A general verdict is defined to be one 'by which the jury pronounce generally upon all or any of the issues.' Section 232. In the present action, brought by the trustee under an assignment from an insolvent corporation to recover an assessment upon its stock, the allegations concerning the defendant's subscription for shares, and his liability by reason of his contract of subscription, and of the assessment made thereon by a court of chancery, were contained in the second and seventh paragraphs of the complaint, and their truth was specifically denied in the first defense set up in the answer. The pleadings therefore distinctly presented the issue whether the defendant made the subscription, and was liable for the assessment, as well as the issues of the statutes of limitations, and of a discharge in bankruptcy.
In the record sent up, the verdict unequivocally states that the jury 'find all issues in favor of the defendant,' and the judgment repeats that 'all the issues raised by the pleadings' were so found. This necessarily includes a finding that the defendant was never liable to pay the assessment. This explicit finding cannot be controlled by statements of fact in those parts of the answer which set up as independent defenses matters in avoidance, or in a bill of exceptions relating to one of those defenses only. Such statements, made for the purpose of presenting the issue to which they relate, are not evidence upon any other issue in the same record. As held by Chief Justice MARSHALL, sitting in the circuit court for the district of North Carolina, where the law authorizes a defendant to plead several pleas, he may use each plea in his defense, and the admissions unavoidably contained in one cannot be used against him in another. Whitaker v. Freeman, 1 Dev. 270, 280. See, also, Knight v. McDouall, 12 Adol. & El. 438, 442; Gould v. Oliver, 2 Man. & G. 208, 234, 2 Scott, N. R. 241, 262. The finding of the jury, that the defendant never subscribed for the shares, or was liable to pay the assessment, constitutes of itself a conclusive determination of the case in his favor. Consequently, the ruling of the circuit court upon the question stated in the bill of exceptions, and principally argued at the bar, of the effect of the discharge in bankruptcy, is wholly immaterial, and cannot have prejudiced the plaintiff, for, however that question should be decided, the defendant would be entitled to judgment upon the verdict. Evans v. Pike, 118 U. S. 241, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1090; Moores v. Bank, 104 U. S. 625; Morisey v. Bunting, 1 Dev. 3. Judgment affirmed.