Dillon v. Barnard , 88 U.S. 430 ( 1875 )

  • 88 U.S. 430 (____)
    21 Wall. 430


    Supreme Court of United States.

    *434 Messrs. S. Bartlett and J.J. Storrow, for the appellant.

    Messrs. C.S. Bradley and W.G. Russell, contra.

    *436 Mr. Justice FIELD, after stating the facts of the case, delivered the opinion of the court, as follows:

    The plaintiff has brought the present suit against the new *437 trustees under the mortgage, and the assignees in bankruptcy, to charge the property held by them with the amount of his demand remaining unpaid for work done under his contract with the company. In support of his pretension he insists that under the indenture his contract, when it obtained the assent of two of the trustees, became a charge upon the moneys received by the corporation from the sale of the bonds; that the trustees under the mortgage and the corporation thereupon became trustees for his benefit of the proceeds thus received, and were bound to apply them to pay his debt; that by their failure to have the proceeds thus applied, and by expending them in acquiring new property and improving that already possessed, the charge upon the proceeds became attached to the property in the hands of the trustees thus added to and improved; and that this charge is entitled to preference over the lien of the bondholders.

    The positions thus asserted must find their support, if at all, in the provisions of the indenture of mortgage. If not sustained there they are not sustained anywhere. The averments of the bill as to the purport and meaning of the provisions of the indenture, the object of their insertion in the instrument, and the obligations they imposed upon the corporation and the trustees, and the rights they conferred upon the plaintiff when his contract was approved, are not admitted by the demurrer. These are matters of legal inference, conclusions of law upon the construction of the indenture, and are open to contention, a copy of the instrument itself being annexed to the bill, and, therefore, before the court for inspection. A demurrer only admits facts well pleaded; it does not admit matters of inference and argument however clearly stated; it does not admit, for example, the accuracy of an alleged construction of an instrument, when the instrument itself is set forth in the bill, or a copy is annexed, against a construction required by its terms; nor the correctness of the ascription of a purpose to the parties when not justified by the language used. The several averments of the plaintiff in the bill as to his understanding of *438 his rights, and of the liabilities and duties of others under the contract, can, therefore, exert no influence upon the mind of the court in the disposition of the demurrer. This is not the case of a bill to set aside or reform the contract as not expressing the actual intention of the parties. It is a case where the contention arises solely upon the meaning of the indenture in its bearing upon the contract, and that must be ascertained by applying to its language the ordinary rules of interpretation.[*]

    Looking, then, at the indenture we find that the only clause upon which the plaintiff relies to sustain his positions is the one providing that the expenditure of all sums of money received from the sale of the bonds shall be made with the approval of at least one of the trustees, and that his assent shall be necessary to all contracts made by the corporation "before the same shall be a charge upon any of the sums" thus received. It is contended that the term charge, as here used, is synonymous with the term lien, and that the whole clause implies that when a contract has thus received the written assent of one of the trustees, it shall be, to the extent of the obligation created, a specific lien upon the moneys obtained. But this meaning of the term is not in harmony with its immediate context, or the object of the indenture. The instrument was executed to secure the payment of the mortgage bonds; it so declares on its face. It nowhere indicates any design to secure the contractors; its language is, "that for the better securing and more sure payment of the sums of money mentioned in the said mortgage bonds, and each of them," the indenture is executed. And the clause in question was intended to increase this security by preventing a wasteful expenditure of the funds of the corporation; it is, in fact, an agreement on its part that the funds received from the bonds shall only be used with the approval of one of the trustees, and without his written assent no contracts shall be payable out of those funds. The term charge is not used in any technical sense, *439 as importing a lien upon the funds, but in the general acceptation of a claim that may be payable out of them. The contractors are not parties to the indenture, and are not entitled to claim as against those parties any benefit under its provisions, except that upon the assent being given to their contracts the use of the moneys for their payment is permissible. They are, so far as the agreement is concerned, strangers to the instrument. The written assent to contracts on the part of one of the trustees, was not required for their protection, but as an additional safeguard to the bondholders against an improvident use of the funds by the corporation. The clause is one of a series of covenants on the part of the corporation with the trustees, intended to secure the application of the funds received to the purposes contemplated at the time the indenture was executed, — the retirement of the existing indebtedness of the corporation, the completion of its road, and the laying of a third rail. And full effect is given to the language of the clause in question by this interpretation.

    The present case, notwithstanding the largeness of the plaintiff's demand, is not different in its essential features from those cases of daily occurrence, where the expectation of a contractor, that funds of his employer derived from specific sources will be devoted to the payment of his services or materials, is disappointed. Such expectation, however reasonable, founded even upon the express promise of the employer that the funds shall be thus devoted, of itself avails nothing in favor of the contractor. Before there can arise any lien on the funds of the employer, there must be, in addition to such express promise, upon which the contractor relies, some act of appropriation on the part of the employer depriving himself of the control of the funds, and conferring upon the contractor the right to have them applied to his payment when the services are rendered or the materials are furnished. There must be a relinquishment by the employer of the right of dominion over the funds, so that without his aid or consent the contractor can enforce their application to his payment when his contract is completed.[*]*440 In the case at bar there is no circumstance impairing the dominion of the corporation over the funds received from the bonds; there is only its covenant with the trustees that the expenditure of those funds shall be made with the approval of one of them, and that one of them shall give his written assent to its contracts before they are paid out of such funds. There is no covenant with the contractor of any kind in the instrument, and no right is conferred upon him to interfere in any disposition which the corporation may see fit to make of its moneys. The essential elements are wanting in the transaction between him and the corporation to give him any lien upon its funds. No right, therefore, exists in him to pursue such funds into other property upon which they have been expended. The case, as already intimated, is on his part one of simple disappointed expectation, against which misfortune equity furnishes no relief.

    The plaintiff made his contract with knowledge of the existing mortgage and of the declaration which it contains, that it is to be the "first and only lien on the property and franchises of the company," and that it covered not only property then held by the company, but would also cover all property which might thereafter be acquired. If he had reason to doubt the future solvency of the corporation, or that it would apply the funds it obtained from its bonds to the payment of his work, he should have provided against such a contingency in advance. He cannot now be heard to complain that his expectation of receiving for his work funds not specifically appropriated for his benefit has failed, and to insist that, therefore, he ought to be allowed to follow those funds into property upon which other parties should have by the terms of a previous contract the first and only lien.



    [*] Lea v. Robeson, 12 Gray, 280.

    [*] Rogers v. Hosack, 18 Wendell, 319; Dickenson v. Phillips, 1 Barbour, 454; Hoyt v. Story, 3 Id. 262; Hall v. Jackson, 20 Pickering, 197; Christmas v. Griswold, 8 Ohio, N.S. 558; Christmas v. Russell, 14 Wallace, 70; Malcolm v. Scott, 3 Hare, 46.