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“This is only my personal receipt, my firm will send you a receipt for all the stocks.”
On the 25th of April, Mrs. Kilmer delivered to Bliven the 5 certificates of Columbus & Hocking Coal & Iron stock of 100 shares each, telling him that she would leave that stock with E. F. Hutton & Co. to be sold at $30 per share, and Bliven gave her a receipt similar to the two signed on the 19th. Subsequently there was received by mail a receipt upon the stationery of the defendants with the date April 19, 1906, for the Central, the Rubber, and the Columbus & Hocking Coal & Iron stock, signed with a rubber stamp, "E. F. Hutton & Co.," and the initials “J. C. W.”
From this point I state the facts from the defendants' point of view. That Bliven had been known to the members of the firm for some years; that he had had with them a 'speculative account; that they offered him a position at $50 a week; that he was employed from the 1st of April, 1906, to July 6, 1906, in the customers' room as a clerk to meet the customers as they came in from out of town offices, to furnish information to the customers in the office regarding earnings of railroads and other gossip that came out through the news ticker, and answer telephones and acquaint customers of the condition of the market over the telephone, and generally the duties of an outside inan in an office in Wall street; that Bliven was told that the firm could not permit any employé to have any speculative or trading account in the office, and that thereupon he transferred his account to his brother, H. C. Bliven, Jr., and got a letter from him accepting the account, and also a letter giving C. A. Bliven power of attorney to act for the account and manage it. On the 19th of April Bliven presented the New York Central certificate with the assignment transferring it to Harriet N. Kilmer and Catherine E. Swinnerton, signed "C. E. Kilmer," and the Rubber certificate with the assignment in blank, signed "C. E. Kilmer," to the cashier of the defendants, and asked that they be credited to the account of H. C. Bliven, Jr., and they were so credited on April 20, 1906. The cashier called the attention of the firm to the fact that they were not properly indorsed. This member of the firm testified that he asked Bliven to take the certificates to Mr. Kilmer and have him sign his full signature as it appeared on the face of the certificates; that Bliven said that Mr. Kilmer had died a few days before, but that Mrs. Kilmer was familiar with the transaction, and that he would take them to her and she would do anything in her power to make them transferable and negotiable; that after he was told that Mr. Kilmer was dead he asked him how he, Bliven, got those certificates, and Bliven said that they were accepted as payment of a debt which Mr. Kilmer had with his brother and himself, and that he had received them some weeks or months before; that Mrs. Kilmer was familiar with the matter, was aware of this obligation having existed, and that she would be glad to do anything in her power, she being the administratrix, to put these certificates in negotiable form.
On the 26th of April, the 500 shares of Columbus & Hocking Coal & Iron stock were brought in by Bliven and credited to his brother's ac
count. As these certificates were in negotiable form, according to the customs of the Street, the defendants testified that they commenced to allow the Bliven account to trade on Hocking Coal & Iron stock on the day they were received.
On the 11th of May, the defendants delivered the New York Central and the Rubber certificates to Bliven, and he took them back to Mrs. Kilmer. She signed each of the assignments, "Harriet N. Kilmer, administratrix for the affairs of Charles E. Kilmer,” and acknowledged the same before a notary public; and on the 12th of May they were again credited to the Bliven account with the defendants. So far as the Rubber certificate was concerned, the assignment up to that time having been in blank, an employé of the defendants wrote in as the assignee, "E. F. Hutton & Co., 35 New Street, N. Y. City,” before Mrs. Kilmer signed and the defendants wrote under the acknowledgment:
"We guarantee the endorsement on this certificate, C. E. Kilmer, to be made by the same person represented on the face of this certificate, Charles E. Kilmer. [Signed] E. F. Hutton & Co."
And on May 16th said certificate was surrendered to the Rubber Company for cancellation, and a new certificate, No. C2251, was on that day duly issued in lieu thereof to E. F. Hutton & Co. The Central certificate was presented by the defendants to the transfer agent, but the company would not issue a new certificate. The defendants' cashier told Bliven that it would be necessary for him to get the surrogate's certificate showing that Mrs. Kilmer had been appointed administratrix, and also a letter from him stating that he knew Harriet N. Kilmer and Catherine E. Swinnerton to be the beneficiaries of the will of Charles E. Kilmer, and that they were the only beneficiaries. Bliven thereupon went to Troy, where Mrs. Kilmer then was. He carried with him a typewritten paper which the defendants' cashier had given to him on the regular stationery of the defendants, with their name and address thereon, addressed to the treasurer of the New York Central Railroad Company, and reading:
“Dear Sir: This is to certify that I, as surrogate of Rennselaer County, have issued to Harriet N. Kilmer letters of administration of the affairs of Charles E. Kilmer. deceased ; and it is known to me that Harriet N. Kilmer is a bene ficiary in the estate of Charles E. Kilmer."
With this paper Bliven and Mrs. Kilmer went to the surrogate's office and obtained the surrogate's signature thereto. The original certificate, 125,003, with the assignment to Mrs. Kilmer and Mrs. Swinnerton on the back, was again presented to the transfer agent, with this letter prepared by the defendants and signed by the surrogate, and thereupon, on the 16th day of June, the company issued its certificate, 127,188, to Mrs. Kilmer and Mrs. Swinnerton, and this certificate was by the defendants on the 18th of June credited to the Bliven account. The testimony shows that items were credited in the accounts the day after their receipt.
On the 22d of June, this certificate was again delivered to Bliven, the defendants having inserted in the blank assignment on the back
on the 23d of June procured the signatures and acknowledgments of both ladies, Bliven stating that E. F. Hutton & Co. wanted the indorsement of Mrs. Kilmer and of her daughter on the back of this certificate. On the 25th the Central Company issued a new certificate therefor, 127,289, in the name of E. F. Hutton & Co., and on the same day it was again credited in the Bliven account.
The defendants collected the dividends and rights on these various stocks while in their possession, and credited them to the Bliven account. On or about July 6, 1906, the defendants, at the instance of Bliven, transferred this account to Waterman, Anthony & Co., brokers, who ultimately sold the stock on the order of the Blivens. The aggregate value of the stocks in Bliven's account at the market price at the time it was transferred was $61,540. The debit in the account was $49,108.51, which sum Waterman, Anthony & Co. paid to the defendants at the time of the transfer. The defendants testified that they received and dealt with the stocks as they did, relying absolutely upon nothing else but the statement of C. A. Bliven that they were his property, but none of these stocks were ever assigned or transferred to Bliven.
There was at no time any written indicia of ownership in him proceeding from the plaintiff or her daughter. Defendants never had an order from the plaintiff or Mrs. Swinnerton to transfer the stock. The defendants knew that the stock came from a dead man's estate. All they purported to have proceeded upon was the statement that Bliven had received the stock from the dead man in payment of an antecedent debt. They made no other inquiry. They accepted Bliven’s word. He produced no written evidence. The Central stock bore, over the name of the dead man, an assignment to his wife and daughter. Three several times this certificate of stock went through their office, and it was brought home to them over and over again that they were dealing with the property of an estate and in regard to which an administrator had to act. Notwithstanding the repeated refusals of the railroad company to issue a new certificate and the care it was taking in the premises, the defendants made no inquiries whatever as to the truth of Bliven's story, an extraordinary story in view of the physical condition of the Central stock, but credited the speculative account, which they knew was his, although they had required it to be put in the name of his brother to technically avoid the rule against carrying an account of an employé, with some $33,000 worth of securities, when that employé was, as they claim, merely an outside office man to give information to customers at $50 a week, without other authority than his bare statement.
The plaintiff's story is that, some little time after she had delivered the stock to Bliven to take to the defendants for the purpose of having them have it properly transferred, as directed by her, to herself and daughter, Bliven said that the defendants would, in addition to the dividends which they would collect for her, pay her 2 per cent. if she would allow these stocks to remain in their office, and that after several interviews she consented to this, and, as she was going away to be gone until October, she agreed to leave the Rubber and Central stock with the defendants until the fall, while the Columbus, H. C. &
I. stock was to be left for sale when it should reach 30; and that, carrying out this agreement, she had transferred the stock into the name of the defendants, because Bliven had told her that the defendants had said that if the firm used these certificates it would be necessary to have them in their name; that stock in a woman's name was not good delivery, and could not be used as collateral. Bliven testified that he did make this agreement with the plaintiff, and that he was authorized to do it by the defendants. The defendants emphatically deny any such conversation, or any dealings or knowledge of any dealings with Mrs. Kilmer.
If it be conceded that Bliven deceived Mrs. Kilmer and deceived the defendants, that, having obtained the stock from the plaintiff for the specific purpose of having it transferred as directed by her, he diverted it to his own use and deceived the defendants into believing that it was his stock and that they dealt with it under such belief, is there any liability to the plaintiff by the defendants?
It seems to me that Mrs. Kilmer, so far as she was concerned, was dealing with the defendants through their employé, and was not chargeable with negligence in so doing. She found that he had been the representative of the defendants, a very short time before these transactions began, in the purchase of $10,000 worth of stock by the defendants for her husband; that he had made delivery of the stock, had received payment therefor from her husband, and had given a receipt therefor to her husband in the name of the defendants. When she sent for him he was found at his desk in the defendants' office, and it is conceded that he was actually employed and under salary there. She had receipts and letter heads and envelopes bearing the business title of the defendants, and she intrusted her stock to him as the employé of the defendants in the first instance, for the sole and simple purpose of having it transferred to herself and daughter in accordance with her instructions. And in the several instances where she was called upon to sign her name thereafter she found upon the stock, put there by the defendants, the name of E. F. Hutton & Co., in exact accordance with the representations which had been made to her. Under those circumstances, it seems to me that there was nothing to put her on her guard; that she had every reason to believe that she was dealing with the duly accredited representative of the defendants, and that they, by their employment of him, not only in the present case but in the previous transaction with her husband, of which the proofs were of record in her hands, had vested him with that apparent authority, which is not to be destroyed by their testimony as to the limitations of his duties which they say existed.
The defendants appeal to that line of cases which hold that while certificates of stock are not in the eyes of the law negotiable instruments, yet that under some circumstances they possess some of the qualities of negotiable instruments, and that if an owner puts a certificate of stock into the possession of another with the written indicia of ownership, so that that stock becomes transferable, if the agent, violating his duty, diverts that stock for his own purposes, the owner may not recover over against the transferree in good faith and for
plaintiff never did give to Bliven the written indicia of ownership in him. When he received it, it did not even bear her signature to the assignment, but the assignment signed by her late husband was to herself and her daughter, and yet the defendants put this stock in this condition to the credit of the Bliven account. And the second time they dealt with it, when it did have the name of Mrs. Kilmer as administratrix attached to the assignment, it was still made to herself and her daughter. And the third time, when they sent it to Troy with a letter drafted by them, upon their paper, to procure the surrogate's signature to a letter to be deposited with the railroad company, it was still assignable to herself and daughter; and when, in accordance with that assignment, the company issued the new certificate, it was to Mrs. Kilmer and her daughter; and, when Mrs. Kilmer and her daughter signed the assignment of that certificate, they did it, not to Bliven, but to the defendants, who had caused their name to be written in the assignment before presenting it to her for her signature, and they immediately caused a new certificate to be taken out in their own name. Now all this time, and from the beginning to the end of the account, they had credited this stock to the account of Bliven, without the stroke of a pen in any shape, manner, or form conferring any written indicia of ownership on Bliven; and it seems to me that the line of cases to which I have referred, under those circumstances, does not apply, but that this case comes fairly within Hall v. Wagner, 111 App. Div. 70, 97 N. Y. Supp. 570, where this court said:
"To establish this estoppel, it must appear that the true owner had conferred upon the person who had diverted the security the indicia of ownership, or an apparent title or authority to transfer the title. The reasoning in all these cases negatives the extension of a principle to a case where a stock certificate, such as the one in question, has been stolen or fraudulently obtained from the true owner; for there the owner of the stock by no voluntary act conferred upon the third party the indicia of ownership, apparent title or right to transfer the stock; and so I assume that if the owner of the certificate of stock, with a valid transfer, executed by the person in whose name the stock stood, should give it to a messenger to be carried to a bank for safe-keeping, and that messenger on the way should divert the stock and transfer it to a bona fide purchaser, for value, such a transfer would not estop the owner from asserting title, for the reason that the owner had never conferred upon such a messenger an apparent title or the indicia of ownership."
Bliven became lawfully possessed of the stock certificates for a special purpose, and if, as defendants say, he delivered the certificates to them claiming ownership of the stock in himself or his brother, then he at that moment converted both the certificates and the stock, for:
“If a person in the rightful possession of chattels under permission of the owner, with the right to make a particular use of them, makes an unauthorized use of them, this terminates his right to their use and amounts to a conversion.” 28 A. & E. Ency. of Law, 695; Laverty v. Snethen, 68 N. Y. 522, 23 Am. Rep. 184; Soltau v. Gerdau, 119 N. Y. 380, 23 N. E. 864, 16 Am. St. Rep. 843.
The subsequent procuring by the defendants of the certificates to be transferred to themselves was prima facie a conversion. A con