Dawson v. Winslow

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Dawson v. Winslow, Wythe 114 (1791),[1] was a case about improper requirement of a penalty payment and whether courts of law and equity can overturn an arbitrator's decision.


Dawson bought 150 acres of land from Winslow in September 1783 for £200. The form of Dawson's payment came in two bonds: one for £100, the other for £150 - the extra £50 was to be a penalty if the bonds weren't paid on time. Dawson had two ways to avoid the penalty: Dawson could avoid the penalty on the second bond by paying the £100 in full by December 25, 1783; or, by February 10, 1784, Dawson could present Winslow with a £100 bond Winslow had given to Henry Garrett. However, Winslow had gotten Garrett to agree not to give Dawson his bond until after February 10, 1784. Garrett told Dawson that Garrett planned to sell the bond to Garth, and told Dawson to go to Garth to get the bond. Dawson bought the bond from Garth and tried to deliver it to Winslow, but Winslow went into hiding to avoid delivery on time, and made a claim on the bond for the £150 penal amount. Winslow also removed a memorandum attached to the penal bond that described how Dawson could satisfy the bond by presenting the bond in Garrett's possession, but did present the memorandum to the arbitrators.

Dawson and Winslow agreed to take their case before an arbitration panel. The arbitrators allowed Winslow or his attorney to read Winslow's statement of the case at the hearing, over Dawson's objections. Dawson brought two witnesses for his side to the hearing, but the arbitrators did not call on them. The arbitrators proceeded to award Winslow roughly £55 plus interest and costs.

The Court's Decision

The High Court of Chancery declared that Winslow committed fraud and that the arbitrators acted in a way that required their award to be set aside. The HCC issued a perpetual injunction against the arbitrators' judgment and awarded costs to Dawson.


Wythe's Discussion


  1. George Wythe, Decisions of Cases in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery, (Richmond: Printed by Thomas Nicolson, 1795), 114.