Beverley v. Rennolds

From Wythepedia: The George Wythe Encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Beverley v. Rennolds, Wythe 121 (1791),[1] was a case discussing whether a court of equity could nullify an arbitrator's award based on a void contract.


Beverley had a gambling problem. When he was underage, he agreed to sell his land, worth £400, to Hipkins for £40-50 of tobacco and currency. When Beverley reached majority age, he refused to abide by the contract's terms, instead offering to repay Hipkins the money Hipkins had given him. Hipkins wanted the land, and convinced Beverley, against the advice of Beverley's friends, to refer the matter to arbitrators. The arbitrators awarded Hipkins £300, and Rennolds, acting as the executor of Hipkins's estate, got a judgment against Beverley based on the arbitrators' award. Beverley filed suit in the High Court of Chancery to stay the execution of Rennolds's judgment.

The Court's Decision

The High Court of Chancery stated that Beverley's and Hipkins's agreement was created under circumstances that would have rendered it void, regardless of Beverley's infancy at the time. Since the contract was void, Beverley committed no harm by failing to heed its terms, and any award against Beverley based on the contract would be illegal. Since the award was illegal, the HCC concluded, Beverley properly sought an injunction against it in equity, and the HCC perpetually enjoined the arbitrators' award. The HCC also noted that the arbitrators' award was so out of proportion from the possible harm that a court of equity could conclude from that fact alone that the arbitrators acted improperly and that the arbitrators' award should be enjoined.

Wythe uses one of Cicero's oratories to illustrate Hipkins's chutzpah by comparing Hipkin's demand to Fimbria's.[2] According to Cicero, Fimbria tried to kill Scaevola, but was only able to wound him. Fimbria then proceeded to file a complaint against Scaevola; when the judges asked Fimbria what possible complaint he could have against Scaevola, Fimbria said that Scaevola did not take the entire weapon into his body.

Works Cited or Referenced by Wythe

"Pro Sex. Roscio Amerino"

In a footnote to this case, Wythe referred to and quoted a Latin phrase from the story of Gaius Flavius Fimbria and Quintus Mucius Scaevola which Cicero used in the oration for his criminal defense of Sextus Roscius of Ameria.[3] The chancellor owned two sets of Cicero's works in Latin, M. Tullii Ciceronis Opera quae Supersunt Omnia and M. Tullii Ciceronis Opera cum Delectu Commentariorum. Both sets include "Pro Sex. Roscio Amerino." The quotation used by Wythe appears in footnote "(b)" on page 122:

(b) The injury for which Hipkins demanded reparation was that Beverley endeavoured to escape the ruin which the art of Hipkins was contriving. those, who could approve such a demand, perhaps would have thought the demand of Fimbria plausible, who having wounded Scaevola, whom he intended to slay, and finding the wound not mortal, cited him, after he recovered to appear before the judges, and being required to state the cause of his complaint against Scaevola, answered quod non totum telum corpore recepisset. Cic. ora. pro S. Roscio Amer.[4]


  1. George Wythe, Decisions of Cases in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery with Remarks upon Decrees by the Court of Appeals, Reversing Some of Those Decisions, 2nd ed., ed. B.B. Minor (Richmond: J.W. Randolph, 1852): 121.
  2. Wythe 122, citing Cic. S. Rosc. 1.
  3. Fimbria attempted to murder Scaevola at the funeral of Gaius Marius. When Scaevola survived, Fimbria "launched a prosecution against him" on charges that do not survive. Richard A. Bauman, Lawyers in Roman Republican Politics (Munchen: C.H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1983): 411-412.
  4. Translation: "because he did not receive the whole weapon into his body."