LEWIS v. WILSON

No. 208.

151 U.S. 551 (1894)

LEWIS v. WILSON.

Supreme Court of United States.

Decided February 5, 1894.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. H. Bisbee for plaintiff in error.

Mr. Wilkinson Call for defendants in error.


MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a most extraordinary case. Nearly two years after a judgment has been formally entered, and after the plaintiff has received payment and acknowledged full satisfaction, he comes in and moves the court to enter a new judgment in double the amount, and on the denial of such motion brings the matter here on error. His contention is that, under the practice in Florida, the court had no power to grant a new trial upon a motion made more than four days after a verdict; that the recital of all that the court said from the bench, as to the amount of damages, and its purpose to grant a new trial unless the plaintiff consented to a reduction, must be disregarded as not properly matter for entry on the journal and not brought into the record by any bill of exceptions, and so a mere memorandum made by the clerk, without any significance in the case, Young v. Martin, 8 Wall. 354; that no consent to a reduction of the verdict, signed by the plaintiff or his counsel, appears on the record, and that the statement by the clerk is insufficient evidence of the fact. Therefore, the court had no power to enter a judgment for $5000; and the receipt of full satisfaction thereof was only a receipt of half of the amount legally due, and does not prevent the plaintiff from proceeding to recover the other half.

It is unnecessary to express any opinion as to the right of a party to file a motion for a new trial more than four days after the verdict; nor to decide whether the court can or cannot — in the absence of any motion, of its own volition — whenever it sees that a grievous wrong has been done by a verdict, set it aside. For there is nothing which prevents a party having a verdict from consenting to its reduction; and if he does so, though only for the sake of obtaining immediate satisfaction of his claim and to avoid further delay and further litigation, he may not, after the entry of judgment based thereon, the receipt of payment, and an acknowledgment of satisfaction, repudiate the whole transaction, and obtain a judgment for the full amount of the verdict, on the ground that under the law the court had no power to disturb the verdict. A man may continue litigation and stand on his rights, or he may waive some of his rights for the sake of terminating litigation; and when advised that a new trial will be granted, unless he consents to a reduction of the verdict, he may, although knowing that the court has no power to grant such new trial, and that if it be done an appellate court will correct the error, consent to a reduction and let judgment be entered for the amount of the verdict thus reduced. And if he does so, he is concluded by his action in that respect. Here not only was there a consent on his part to a reduction, but also what amounted to a waiver of errors by the defendants, and a promise to pay the amount of the judgment. There was full consideration for the agreement, and judgment was entered in accordance therewith. Thereafter he received payment and acknowledged full satisfaction. The litigation is at an end by his consent, and he cannot reopen it. There is no force in the contention of the plaintiff that no written consent to the reduction of the verdict, signed by himself or attorney, was filed in the case. None was necessary. A party may in open court consent to such reduction, and the noting of his consent by the clerk in the journal entry of the judgment is sufficient evidence thereof, and cannot be questioned. The judgment will be

Affirmed.


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