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BURCHELL V. MARSH, 58 U. S. 344 (1854)

U.S. Supreme Court

Burchell v. Marsh, 58 U.S. 17 How. 344 344 (1854)

Burchell v. Marsh*

58 U.S. (17 How.) 344


If an award is within the submission and contains the honest decision of the arbitrators after a full and fair hearing of the parties, a court of equity will not set it aside for error either in law or fact.

In this case, one of the parties sued the other for debt, who, in his turn, claimed damages for the manner in which he was sued. The submission was broad enough to cover all these demands on either side.

One of the claims made by the party who was sued was for damages for the violence of the agent of the creditors, and the referees heard evidence upon this subject. Even if this had been beyond the submission, there was nothing in the record to show that the arbitrators made any allowance for this violence and slanderous language.

The charges of fraud and corruption made in the bill are denied in the answer, and the award is not so outrageous as of itself to constitute conclusive evidence of fraud or corruption. Error of judgment in the arbitrators is not a sufficient ground for setting aside an award.

Page 58 U. S. 345

The bill was filed by Marsh, Frear, and Arbuckle, to set aside an award made by arbitrators chosen by them upon the one part, and Burchell upon the other, to hear all matters of claim of either party, upon or against the other, in the law or in equity.

The facts in the case were these:

There were two commercial firms in New York, carrying on business under the names of Marsh and Frear, and Alexander Frear and Co. The first was composed of Stewart C. Marsh and Alexander Frear, and the second of Alexander Frear and William M. Arbuckle. Burchell was a retail country merchant, having a store at St. Charles, in Kane County, Illinois, and another store at Cherry Valley, in Winnebago County, Illinois. Burchell had been in the habit for several years of purchasing goods from the firms in New York and of making payments on account.

In March, 1852, the two firms brought suits in the Circuit Court of the United States for Illinois, against Burchell, by summons. At April term, 1852, at Chicago, Burchell filed an affidavit for a continuance, stating that he could prove by absent witnesses that the debt was not due when the suit was brought in March, nor until the April following. Whereupon the plaintiffs submitted to a nonsuit.

In May, 1852, the two firms renewed their suits, but filed the affidavits required by law and commenced the suits by writs of capias ad respondendum under which Burchell was arrested and held to bail. The amount claimed by Marsh & Freer was $12,000, and by Freer & Arbuckle, $2,014. These suits were brought by R. V. M. Cross as agent and attorney for the plaintiffs.

In July, 1852, the court being held at Springfield, the causes were continued upon affidavit of the defendant.

In October, 1852, there was an agreement for a reference to arbitrators, which, however, was afterwards revoked by Freer.

In December, 1852, the parties agreed upon another award. The agreement recited the claims of the firms upon Burchell, and the suits

"by which the said Burchell claims to have sustained damages by reason of having been sued by said firms as aforesaid, and by reason of the doings of the said firms towards him."

The agreement then proceeded thus:

"Now therefore, in consideration of the premises and to put an end to all further controversies and for a full and final adjustment of all differences between them, this article of submission, made and entered into this 15th day of December, A.D. 1852, between Alexander Freer, William M. Arbuckle, and Stewart C. Marsh, of the one part, and Peter J. Burchell, of the other

Page 58 U. S. 346

part, witnesseth that the said parties have agreed to and do hereby submit all demands, suits, claims, causes of action, controversies and disputes between them to the arbitrament, determination, and award of F. B. Mosley, Oliver M. Butler, and such other person as the said Mosley and Butler may select, who are within sixty days from the day of the date hereof, and on such day as they or a majority of them shall select, to meet at St. Charles, Kane County, of the time of which meeting notice shall be given to the said parties or their attorneys, and the said arbitrators shall hear all matters of claim of either party upon or against the other founded in law or equity. And the said award shall direct and determine what, if anything, is due or owing from said Burchell to said firms or what, if anything, shall be due from either or both of said firms to the said Burchell &c."

Evidence was given before the arbitrators of the accounts, of the credits, the institution of the suits, of the time when the goods were to be paid for, of Burchell's pecuniary condition, of the arrest under the capias and bail, of the violent declarations of Cross, the agent of the plaintiffs, the opinions of witnesses, how much injury Burchell's credit had sustained by reason of the suits &c.

In February, 1853, the arbitrators awarded as follows, namely:

"First that all claims, demands, controversies, and disputes between the respective parties or between the said Burchell and the firm of Marsh & Freer, and also between the firm of Alexander Freer and Co. and the said Burchell, should cease and be determined by the said award. Second, that as between Stewart C. Marsh and Alexander Freer, the firm of Marsh & Freer, and the said Burchell, that there was due from said firm of Marsh & Freer to the said Peter J. Burchell the sum of one hundred dollars, which said sum they did direct that the said Marsh & Freer should pay in money to the said Peter J. Burchell in one month from the date of said award. Third, as between Alexander Freer and William M. Arbuckle, the firm of Alexander Freer and Co., that there was due from said firm of Alexander Freer and Co. to said Burchell the sum of twenty-five dollars, which said sum they did direct that your orators, Alexander Freer and William M. Arbuckle, should pay in money to said Burchell in one month from the date of the said award. Fourth, that the costs of said arbitration should be paid as follows: that the firms should pay all the costs which they had made or occasioned, and should also pay the said Burchell his costs expended in and about said arbitration."

In February, 1853, the firms filed a bill on the equity side of the court to set aside this award. The bill was answered, and

Page 58 U. S. 347

the cause came up upon bill and answer in May, 1853, when the court decreed that the award should in all things be vacated, annulled, and set aside, and that Burchell should absolutely refrain and desist from counting upon or in any manner pleading said award in any suit or proceeding in law or equity.

Burchell appealed to this Court.

Page 58 U. S. 349

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