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Knutson v. Ripson - 163 Tex. 312, 354 S.W.2d 575 (1962)

Rule:

An issue submitted to a jury making inquiry whether certain checks delivered to payee was a settlement and discharge of an obligation is a question of law as distinguished from an agreement between the parties that the checks were in settlement and discharge of an obligation which is a question of fact.

Facts:

Plaintiff Knutson filed a lawsuit in Texas state court against defendants Ripson, Norton and House (collectively, "purchasers"), seeking damages for the breach of a contract whereby Knutson agreed to sell, and defendants agreed to buy, approximately 1200 head of cattle. The purchasers delivered forfeit money calculated at $ 15 a head to the Knutson's credit. When the parties disagreed on delivery arrangements, the purchasers gave Knutson checks for all the cattle delivered and he credited them with the remaining balance of the forfeit money. Thus, the purchasers argued that the contract had been settled and discharged by Knutson by his acceptance of the checks delivered to him by purchasers.. The trial court submitted a special issue to the jury asking whether the contract had been discharged by Knutson's acceptance of the checks. The court, upon a jury's finding that the debt had been paid, rendered judgment in favor of the purchasers. On appeal, the appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial. It ruled that the special issue was improperly submitted to the jury because it raised a question of law rather than of fact.

Issue:

Was the special issue improperly submitted to the jury?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The stater supreme court affirmed the appellate court's judgment. The court held that the special issue did not present a jury question because it involved a question of law about the legal effect of Knutson's acceptance of the checks rather than an issue of fact.

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