Overstreet v. Randolph

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Overstreet v. Randolph, Wythe 47 (1789), was a case.[1]


The plaintiff, John Holcomb Overstreet, gave defendant Richard Randolph an obligation to pay £300 in exchange for a slave; Randolph then assigned the obligation to co-defendant William Griffin. Overstreet claimed that Randolph had dealed extremely unfairly with him, and asked to be relieved of his obligation.

The Court's Decision

The High Court of Chancery said that Griffin had paid valuable consideration to Randolph for the obligation and that Griffin had no idea that Randolph had dealt unfairly with Overstreet. Therefore, the court stated, under section 7 of Chapter 33 of the 1748 Virginia Acts of Assembly,[2] Griffin had as much equity as Overstreet and a legal right to the obligation, and so it would not relieve Overstreet of his obligation.

Overstreet raised four objections to the Court's decision:

Overstreet claimed that the Court gave the assignee, Griffin, a greater right than the assignor, Randolph, had. The Court rejected this objection, stating that Randolph only gave Griffin the same rights Randolph had. Randolph could have filed a claim to try to compel Overstreet's payment, but equity would have required the court to reject Randolph's claim due to Randolph's fraud. Since Griffin was unaware of any fraud and had committed none himself, though, equity would not bar Griffin's claim on those same rights. Between the two innocent men, the Court said, the burden of loss falls on the one whose act led to that loss - in this case, Overstreet's creation of the obligation.

  • That the Court assumed, but did not prove, that Griffin's equity was the same as Overstreet's.
  • That the Court's decision would encourage fraudulent assignments and discourage would-be assignees from properly investigating the situation before buying.
  • That since Chapter 33 allows discounts to be given before notice of assignment, equity dictates that assignees should be liable to objections that could be made against the original owner.

Wythe's Discussion


  1. George Wythe, Decisions of Cases in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery, (Richmond: Printed by Thomas Nicolson, 1795), 47.
  2. 6 Hening's Statutes 87.