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Barth v. Hall

Supreme Court of Arizona

May 6, 1931

JACOB BARTH and MAURICE BARTH, Appellants,
v.
M. L. HALL, Sheriff of Apache County, Arizona, Appellee

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of the County of Apache. M. T. Phelps, Judge. Judgment affirmed.

Mr. Levi S. Udall and Mr. Isaac Barth, for Appellants.

Mr. Dodd L. Greer, for Appellee.

OPINION

[38 Ariz. 252] ROSS, J.

M. L. Hall, sheriff, of Apache county, by virtue of a writ of attachment issued in the suit of Isaac Barth v. B. Y. Duke, levied upon a Chevrolet coupe as the property of said Duke. After the levy, one Charley Duke claimed the automobile as his, whereupon the sheriff, as he was authorized to do under section 4248 of the Revised Code of 1928, required plaintiff in attachment to execute and deliver to him a bond of indemnity. Such indemnifying bond was signed by Isaac Barth as principal and Jacob and Maurice Barth as sureties, and was conditioned to "well

Page 123

and truly indemnify and save harmless the said sheriff of Apache County Arizona of and from all damages, expenses, costs and charges, and against all loss and liability which he, the said Sheriff shall sustain or in anywise be put to, for or by reason of the levy, taking, sale, or retention by the said automobile [38 Ariz. 253] in his custody under said writ of the said property claimed as aforesaid."

In a trial of Charley Duke's claim against the sheriff he established ownership of the automobile, obtained a judgment against the sheriff for its return, or its value assessed at $859, for the sum of $350 damages for loss of use of car, and for costs taxed at $16.80.

Thereafter, the sheriff acting under the provisions of section 3845 of the Revised Code of 1928, filed a motion for judgment over against the sureties, Jacob and Maurice Barth, showing therein that he had returned to the owner the automobile, but that the judgment of $350 for damages and $16.80 for costs was unsatisfied. It also appeared from said motion that the sheriff, not only advised Jacob and Maurice Barth of Charley Duke's suit, but served upon them a copy of Duke's complaint; also that both indemnitors were present at the trial of said cause and testified as witnesses. The motion for judgment was filed on July 31, 1929, and on October 3d the court, reciting "that no response thereto has been filed by said indemnitors Maurice and Jacob Barth," ordered judgment against them for damages of $350 and $16.80 costs.

The sureties have appealed and assigned as reasons therefor (1) that they were not served with written notice of the suit against the sheriff; and (2) that the court did not give sureties five days' notice before it entered judgment against them.

The statute (section 3845, supra) that makes this summary remedy available to a sheriff, who has taken indemnity to secure himself against claims of third persons for executing process, reads as follows:

"If an action be brought against a sheriff for act done by virtue of his office, and he give written notice thereof to the sureties on any bond of indemnity received by him, the judgment recovered therein [38 Ariz. 254] shall be conclusive evidence of his right to recover against the sureties, and the court may, upon five days notice to the sureties, enter judgment against them for the amount recovered."

Speaking of a proceeding under a like statute, in Moore v. Sleeper, 102 Cal. 277, 36 P. 593, the court took the view that it was not an independent action but "a supplemental motion made for judgment against the sureties in an action of which the superior court had jurisdiction, and in which it had had already proceeded to judgment against the nominal defendant. The provision in section 1055 of the Code of Civil Procedure [our section 3845], permitting such a motion as this to be made, proceeds upon the theory that indemnitors are the real parties defendant when a sheriff is sued for an official act for which they have indemnified him, and that when they have notice of the pendency of such an action the judgment against the sheriff is conclusive of his right to recover against them; and, this being so, the statute permits the sheriff to have judgment entered against them at once upon a motion in the action, without the expense and delay of prosecuting an action upon the bond of indemnity, and such a motion is not to be regarded as the commencement of an independent action against the sureties."

Of course, the "written notice" to the sureties of the action and claim of Charley Duke to the car, so that they might defend against said action if they saw fit, was essential under the statute. It will be noticed that neither the form nor contents of the notice is prescribed by the statute. Any written notice capable of conveying to the sureties the fact that their liability on the indemnity bond was to be tried out would seem to be all that is contemplated. Copies of the complaint, alleging a cause of action against the sheriff for doing what he had been indemnified to [38 Ariz. 255] do, would ...


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