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STELLWAGEN v. CLUM

February 4, 1918

STELLWAGEN, TRUSTEE FOR ZENGERLE
v.
CLUM, TRUSTEE IN BANKRUPTCY OF GEORGIAN BAY COMPANY



CERTIFICATE FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Day

[ 245 U.S. Page 607]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

This case is here upon certificate from the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. From the statement accompanying the certificate it appears that Stellwagen, Trustee for Margaret Zengerle, filed a petition in the United States District Court to require the surrender and transfer to him of a quantity of white pine lumber and balance due upon a certain open account then in possession of Clum as trustee in bankruptcy of the Georgian Bay Company. The order was denied, the petition dismissed, and appeal taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals.

The questions are whether certain provisions of the statutes of Ohio are suspended by virtue of the Bankruptcy Act of 1898. The facts upon which the questions arise, and in view of which they are to be answered, are thus stated:

"The Georgian Bay Company, an Ohio corporation, was at the time of the transactions in dispute engaged in the wholesale and retail lumber business at Cleveland, Ohio. February 2, 1910, the company delivered to appellant's predecessor (A. L. McBean), as trustee for Margaret Zengerle and the Dime Savings Bank of Detroit, its bill of sale, describing 433,500 feet of white pine lumber then in the company's yards, and stating a total price of $14,013; crediting the trustee with certain promissory notes of the company for a like sum and payable in different amounts, to the order of Margaret Zengerle, C. M. Zengerle, agent, and the Dime Savings Bank, respectively. Neither the bill of sale nor a copy was filed with the recorder of Cuyahoga County, Ohio; but the lumber so in terms sold consisted of piles (stacked in the ordinary way) which were to be and at the time in fact were each distinctly

[ 245 U.S. Page 608]

     marked: 'Sold to A. L. McB., Agt.' May 3, 1910, the company with consent of McBean sold this lumber and certain of its own lumber then in the yards, to Schuette & Co. of Pittsburgh. Payment was to be made by Schuette & Co., part in cash, part in notes maturing at fixed times between date of sale and the following September 10th, and the balance in cash on or before October 1st. Two days later, May 5th, the Georgian Bay Company transferred to appellant 'the balance, twenty-five per cent. of invoice value or what may show due on the first of October, A.D. 1910, of the purchase price of the lumber' (so sold to Schuette & Co.), to secure payment in full of all moneys that should be advanced by, and 'payment pro rata of all moneys' then owing to, the Dime Savings Bank, Mrs. Zengerle and C. M. Zengerle, agent; and any surplus remaining was to be returned to the company. Schuette & Co., while owing a balance of $7,500 on portions of the lumber it had received, rejected the rest; this can be identified and is worth about $4,000. It was the transfer of this balance and the surrender of this rejected lumber that appellant sought in the court below.

"October 31, 1910, the Georgian Bay Company made a general assignment for the benefit of its creditors, which was properly filed the following November 7th; and on the 9th of that month the company was adjudicated a bankrupt. At the time there remained due from the bankrupt to Mrs. Zengerle $7,100. C. M. Zengerle is the husband of Margaret Zengerle, and was the president of the Georgian Bay Company; the notes payable to his wife represented loans of money belonging to her; and in negotiating those loans and in the transaction had under the bill of sale, he acted as her agent and as president of the company. The theory of the court below was that the bill of sale (February 2, 1910) was intended merely as security and, not having been deposited in accordance with Sec. 4150 (2 Bates' Ann. Ohio Stat., p. 2302) concerning

[ 245 U.S. Page 609]

     chattel mortgages, was null and void; that the transfer (May 5th) of balance accruing October 1st from Schuette & Co. was made with intent to hinder and delay creditors, when, according to the laws and the rule of judicial decision of the State of Ohio, the Georgian Bay Company was insolvent, though not according to the Bankruptcy Act; that Margaret Zengerle was, through her agent, C. M. Zengerle, chargeable with knowledge of such intent and insolvency, and the Savings Bank was not; that as to Margaret Zengerle the transfer was null and void and so was set aside, but that the Savings Bank was entitled to be paid out of the balance of the Schuette account. No appeal was taken from the portion of the decree which allowed recovery by the Savings Bank."

The statutes of the State of Ohio in question are §§ 6343 and 6344 of the Revised Statutes of Ohio as amended April 30, 1908, 99 Ohio Laws, 241, 242. These sections were rearranged under the General Code of Ohio approved February 15, 1910, wherein they appear as §§ 11102 to 11107, inclusive. (These sections are given in the certificate, as they stood February 2, 1910, and are found in the margin.*fn1

[ 245 U.S. Page 610]

     The claim is stated to be that § 6343 when considered in connection with the chapter concerning insolvent debtors is suspended by the Bankruptcy Act. Reliance is had for this contention upon the following portion of § 6343 which provides: "a receiver may be appointed who shall take charge of all the assets of such debtor or debtors, including the property ...


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