Kimbro v. Bullitt (1859) – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In Kimbro v. Bullitt (1859) 63 U.S. 256, a member of a firm, which, acting by another partner, was a joint drawer and second signer of a bill of exchange, was held liable at the suit of the drawees and acceptors, who paid the bill.

It appears in the opinion that the bills were drawn by Morgan McAfee and the firm of Dement, Kimbro Sons, addressed to Bullitt, Miller Co.

The bills were accepted and paid by the drawees, and suit was brought by them against Kimbro, a member of the firm of Dement, Kimbro Sons. Kimbro defended upon the ground that the principal acting partner of his firm had no power to draw the bills sued on. It did not seem to occur to court or counsel that the firm had no power to become a joint obligor with Morgan McAfee as drawers of the bill, nor that the firm was to be presumed to be the surety of Morgan McAfee, the first drawer, or the drawer whose name was first signed.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Circuit Court against Kimbro, holding that a partner in a trading firm has a right, without the consent of his associates, to draw bills of exchange, and that the right of the acceptors who had paid the money to recover from the drawers could not be affected by the fact that one of the drawers had applied the money to an unlawful purpose.

The Supreme Court of the United States held that a bill drawn by a partner in the name of a firm engaged in farming working a sawmill, and in trading was binding, because trading and running the mill required capital and the use of credit; but that, if the firm had been engaged in farming alone, no one partner could have bound it by a bill or note.

But it has been held that a firm engaged in manufacturing and selling of lumber, bark, etc., upon a tract of land specified and "upon any other tract which shall be purchased by said copartners," is such a trading copartnership as clothes the members thereof with authority to bind the partnership. (Rumsey v. Briggs, 139 N.Y. 323, 34 N.E. 929.)

Mr. Justice Clifford, speaking for the court in Kimbro v. Bullitt, 22 How. 256, 268, said that "wherever the business, according to the usual mode of conducting it, imports, in its nature, the necessity of buying and selling, the firm is then properly regarded as a trading partnership, and is invested with all the powers and subject to all the obligations incident to that relation."