Hite v. Goodman, 21 N.C. 364, 1 Dev. & Bat. Eq. 364 (1836)

June 1836 · Supreme Court of North Carolina
21 N.C. 364, 1 Dev. & Bat. Eq. 364


June, 1836.

Where the justices of a county meet out of court, and in their public character offer a reward for the apprehension of outlawed slaves, they are not personally bound, although the county is not responsible upon their engagement.

One who without fraud contracts in the name of another, but without his authority, is not personally liable upon the contract, unless he renders himself so, by express stipulation, or by the receipt of the consideration.

CeRtain runaway slaves having .committed great outrages in the county of Gates, several magistrates of that county assembled at the court-house to deliberate upon the propriety of calling upon the colonel of the county to order out the militia for the purpose of apprehending them. This meeting was held during the recess between the regular terms of the County Court, and at it the following order was made: Ordered, that a reward of sixteen hundred dollars be given for the apprehension of negroes Jim, &c., (four in number,) or four hundred dollars for each,” The plaintiffs alleged that three of the slaves were taken by them and one Collins: that they were without redress at law, because Collins, after having, assigned to one of them his interest in the claim. for a reward, had fraudulently dismissed a suit brought to recover it. The prayer of the bill was for payment of the sum of twelve hundred dollars, being that portion of the reward to which they were entitled for taking three of the outlaws.

The claim was resisted upon several grounds which it is not necessary to state.

Kinney, for the plaintiffs.

Iredell, contra.

Gaston, Judge,

after stating the facts as above, proceeded: — It has not been and will not be pretended, that in its terms this order is a personal undertaking on the part of these individuals to pay the reward. It purports to be a command issued by the embodied magistracy of the county, to that county and its fiscal officers. If it can be regarded in the nature of an engagement, it must be *365viewed as professing, and as credited by the plaintiffs, to be, not the engagement of the defendants, but the engagement of the county of Gates. But it is admitted on all hands, that the order for the reward did not bind the county, for that the justices had no authority to disburse or direct the application of the county moneys, except when holding the regular county court. And it is insisted by the plaintiffs, that whenever a contract is entered into in behalf of others without authority, it becomes the personal contract of the pretended agents. To this proposition, in its broad terms, we do not assent. Every man who is guilty of a fraud, in pretending an authority to bind another, and who by means of that fraud does an injury to a third person is undoubtedly responsible to the extent of such injury. He who stipulates in the name of another without fraud, but without authority, and receives the consideration of that stipulation, may be liable on the promise which the law implies from the receipt of the consideration. Delins v. Cawthorn, 2 Dev. 90. But where there is no concealment or misrepresentation in him who promises, in the name of another, and no consideration or benefit moves personally to him; where there is a simple misapprehension on both sides, that be for whom and as whose the engagement is made, will be bound to perform it, I am not aware of the principle of law or equity that raises a personal promise in opposition to- the unquestioned truth of the case. But however this may be as to engagements professing to be made under authority from individuals, we consider it settled that an action will not lie against a public agent for any contract entered into by him in his public character, although alleged to be in the particular instance a breach of his employment, unless he explicitly undertakes to be personally responsible. Gidley v. Palmerston, 2 Bro. & Bing. 275. Unwin v. Wolseley, 1 Terms, 674. Macbeath v. Haldermand, Id., 172. Hodgson v. Dexter, 1 Cranch, 345. The defendants, therefore, are not liable as charged. The mere fact that the order exceeded their authority does not support the allegation of a personal promise.

Without examination into the other grounds of defence *366which have been taken, we feel ourselves bound to dismiss the bill with costs to these defendants.

^ plaintiffs have a well founded claim against the county, it ought not to be doubted but that, on proper application, they will obtain full justice.

Per Curiam. Bill dismissed.