MASSACHUSETTS BENEFIT ASS'N v. MILES

No. 1380.

137 U.S. 689 (1891)

MASSACHUSETTS BENEFIT ASSOCIATION v. MILES.

Supreme Court of United States.

Decided January 19, 1891.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. Richard P. White for the motion.

Mr. Frederick Carroll Brewster, Mr. Ernest L. Tustin and Mr. William F. Johnson, opposing.


MR. JUSTICE BROWN delivered the opinion of the court.

Our jurisdiction to review this case upon writ of error depends upon the amount of the judgment, and the sole question is, whether upon the face of this record, the judgment is for five thousand dollars, or for that amount with interest from the date of the verdict. Under the peculiar practice obtaining in Pennsylvania, the judgment was not entered up for a definite amount in dollars and cents, but, generally, "in favor of the plaintiff, and against the defendant, on the verdict." As the verdict was rendered thirteen days before this entry, the amount actually due at the date of the judgment, if interest be computed upon the verdict, was $5010.83.

At common law neither verdicts nor judgments bore interest; but by Revised Statutes, section 966, "interest shall be allowed on all judgments in civil causes, recovered in a Circuit or District Court, and may be levied by the marshal under process of execution issued thereon, in all cases where, by the law of the State in which such court is held, interest may be levied under process of execution on judgments recovered in the courts of such State; and it shall be calculated from the date of the judgment, at such rate as is allowed by law on judgments recovered in the courts of such State."

Did the case rest solely upon this statute, it is difficult to see how interest could be computed upon this verdict, inasmuch as the specific allowance of interest upon judgments would seem to exclude the inference that interest should be allowed upon verdicts before judgment. But by an act of the legislature of Pennsylvania, passed in 1859, it is declared to "be lawful for any party or parties, in whose favor any verdict may be rendered for a specific sum of money, to collect and receive interest upon such sum from the date of the verdict; and every general judgment entered upon such verdict, whether by a court of original jurisdiction, or by the Supreme Court, shall be deemed and held to be a judgment for the sum found by the verdict, with interest thereon from the date of such finding." Purdon's Digest, Verdict, pl. 3.

We regard this statute as settling the question in favor of our jurisdiction. Section 966, while providing only for interest upon judgments, does not exclude the idea of a power in the several States to allow interest upon verdicts, and where such allowance is expressly made by a State statute, we consider it a right given to a successful plaintiff, of which he ought not to be deprived by a removal of his case to the Federal court. The courts of the State and the Federal courts sitting within the State should be in harmony upon this point. Both in Holden v. Trust Company, 100 U.S. 72, and in Ohio v. Frank, 103 U.S. 697, it was held that the question of interest is always one of local law. This is also recognized in the 23d Rule of this court, which allows interest upon the judgment of the inferior courts, at such rate as similar judgments bear interest in the courts of the State where such judgment is rendered, whenever upon writ of error from this court the judgment of such inferior court is affirmed. Where interest antecedent to the judgment appealed from is included in such judgment, and the amount, with the added interest, exceeds $5000, jurisdiction will attach. The Patapsco, 12 Wall. 451; The Rio Grande, 19 Wall. 178; Zeckendorf v. Johnson, 123 U.S. 617; District of Columbia v. Gannon, 130 U.S. 227; New York Elevated Railroad v. Fifth Nat. Bk., 118 U.S. 608; Keller v. Ashford, 133 U.S. 610.

The motion to dismiss will therefore be

Denied.


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