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Law School Case Brief

Rosenthal v. Walker - 111 U.S. 185, 4 S. Ct. 382 (1884)


If a letter properly directed is proved to have been either put into the post office or delivered to the postman, it is presumed, from the known course of business in the post office department, that it reached its destination at the regular time, and was received by the person to whom it was addressed. The presumption so arising is not a conclusive presumption of law, but a mere inference of fact founded on the probability that the officers of the government will do their duty and the usual course of business; when such a presumption is opposed by evidence that the letters never were received, this evidence must be weighed with all the other circumstances of the case, by the jury in determining the question whether the letters were actually received or not. 


A petition in involuntary bankruptcy was filed against Carney by his creditors, where he was adjudicated bankrupt. Carney, however, sold certain money paid and property to Rosenthal. Player, as assignee in bankruptcy of Carney, filed an to recover the money paid and property sold by Carney in fraud as authorized by the law. The court noted that while defendant was insolvent, he made payments to a third party, to whom he also sold a volume of whiskey, shoes, and boots. Plaintiff brought suit. Defendant brought a motion to dismiss, claiming the statute of limitations barred the action. A jury verdict was entered for plaintiff. Defendant appealed, claiming additionally that the evidence of plaintiff's letters to defendant was improperly admitted. The district court allowed recovering, ruling that the statute of limitations of U.S. Rev. Stat. § 5057 did not bar plaintiff's suit. Rosenthal appealed, claiming that the statute of limitations applied and that evidence of plaintiff's letters to defendant was improperly admitted at trial.


Did the statute of limitations bar the action?




The Court affirmed the trial court's judgment holding the statute of limitations did not bar the action, finding that plaintiff assignee was entitled to recover the value of property fraudulently transferred by defendant due to defendant's fraudulent concealment of facts. The United States Supreme Court affirmed, holding that although the statute of limitations had lapsed, it was not a bar to the action where defendant and the third party concealed the payments and transfers of property. Where there was a question at trial as to whether defendant received plaintiff's letters, the letters were properly admitted to give rise to the presumption that the letters were received.

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