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Milliken v. Pratt

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
125 Mass. 374 (1878)


Facts

In 1870, Daniel Pratt, a Massachusetts resident, entered into an agreement with Milliken and his business partner (plaintiffs), who operated a company, Derring, Milliken & Co. (DM & Co.), in Portland, Maine. The agreement allowed Pratt to make purchases from DM & Co. on credit. As a condition of the agreement, Milliken and his partner required a guaranty from Mrs. Pratt (defendant), under which she would agree to guarantee payment by her husband in the amount of $500. The guaranty made reference to its being made in Portland, Maine. Mrs. Pratt executed it at her home in Massachusetts; her husband then sent it by mail to Portland. At the time that the guaranty was made, Massachusetts law did not allow a married woman to act as a surety for her husband. Maine, on the other hand, permitted married women to enter such contracts. Over the next year and a half, Mr. Pratt made various purchases from DM & Co. Requests for purchases were all made to DM & Co.’s Portland address; all deliveries were made from Portland. Mr. Pratt timely paid for such purchases until the fall of 1871, at which point he held an unpaid balance of $560.12. After Mrs. Pratt refused to pay her husband’s debt, plaintiffs sued her in a Massachusetts court. By that point, Massachusetts law had changed so that a married woman had capacity to act as a surety for her husband. The trial court decided in favor of Mrs. Pratt. Plaintiffs appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Gray, C.J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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