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RAHAL et al. v. TITUS.
Attachment, etc. Savannah City Court. Before Judge Alexander.
FELTON, Chief Judge.
Where no issuable defenses were filed to an attachment proceeding, the case was in default except for a plea of bankruptcy, therefore the judgment of the court granting the plaintiff's motion to dismiss the defendant's pleadings and his motion for final judgment on the pleadings is affirmed with direction to amend the judgment to grant the defendant a perpetual stay of execution.
Attachment was sued out by J. DeWitt Titus against Edmund E. Rahal on January 18, 1961, in and returnable to the City Court of Savannah. It was levied by the sheriff on January 27, on which day defendant Rahal and defendant H. E. Martin, as surety, executed an attachment bond which they filed in the Superior Court of Chatham County. Thereafter Georgia Skallet and James N. Rahal filed claims to portions of the property levied on, which claims were never adjudicated. The defendants jointly filed a general plea and answer to the declaration, denying their indebtedness, which plea was not then ruled upon. A jury before which defendant Rahal's traverse to the attachment was tried returned a verdict for the plaintiff, upon which verdict no judgment was entered in the record. While the traverse was pending the defendants filed a special demurrer, which was overruled, a petition for a stay on account of bankruptcy, which was granted then subsequently dissolved, and a plea of discharge in bankruptcy, which was never ruled upon. Following the trial of the traverse, defendant Rahal filed a motion for new trial, which was overruled on the plaintiff's motion. The defendants then filed a plea of failure of consideration to the declaration, a plea in abatement alleging that the bond was not binding on defendant Martin as surety, and a plea in abatement alleging that the claims to the property attached were still unresolved. There was no ruling on the plaintiff's motion to dismiss these pleas until final judgment was rendered. On November 14, 1962, the plaintiff filed a motion for final judgment on the grounds that: (1) the suit was in default since the defendant had filed only a general denial to a suit on an unconditional written contract; (2) there remained a suit on an unliquidated demand, which was entitled to judgment upon default or the filing of a general denial; and (3) no attorney's fees were involved, therefore no jury was necessary. On November 30 the defendants filed general demurrers to the plaintiff's motion, which demurrers were overruled on December 4. By order of December 20, the court granted the plaintiff's motion for final judgment after sustaining his motion to dismiss the defendants' general plea and answer and their pleas in abatement and plea of failure of consideration. The defendants assign error on the judgment of the court in granting final judgment against them without notice or hearings on the unresolved issues of fact raised by their various pleadings.
1. Whether or not the court erred in its order granting the plaintiff's motion for final judgment depends upon whether or not the defensive pleadings raised any issuable defenses, therefore we shall examine each of these pleadings for this purpose.
There was no error in dismissing the plea in abatement (seeking to postpone any determination of the issue in the attachment proceeding until the pending claims to the property levied on were disposed of), for the reason that when the defendant in attachment replevied the property levied on by the giving of bond the levy was dissolved. Watters v. Southern Fixture &c. Co., 13 Ga. App. 468 (79 SE 360); Alvaton Mercantile Co. v. Caldwell, 156 Ga. 317 (1) (119 SE 25). The property is then released and the attachment suit proceeds as a common-law suit, with the bond standing as security rather than the property. Consequently, the plaintiff in attachment was no longer concerned with the issue made by the claims to the property, and they could have no bearing whatever upon the attachment proceeding or its disposition. Code 8-801, 8-802 make provision for the proceedings on the claim when there has been no replevy of the property; indeed, by Code 8-803 the claimant can replevy the property if the defendant in attachment hasn't done so, but, of course, if he has, then the claimant must proceed against the defendant in attachment to assert his claim. The claim is, after all, merely the assertion of some right in the claimant to the property, and if the property is released from the attachment, hence no longer subject to the levy, insofar as the attachment proceeding is concerned it has become functus officio.
Examination of the record discloses that the replevy bond was posted January 27, 1961, approved by the sheriff and the property released on that date. That took the property levied on out of the attachment proceeding. From that date there was nothing to constitute the subject matter of the claims filed on February 14 and 16, 1961. Their remedy for any such claims was in trover against defendant Rahal, not by way of claims in the attachment proceeding. The court should have dismissed, on its own motion, the claims.
2. There was also no error in the dismissal of the plea in abatement attacking the validity of the bond on the grounds that (a) it was so conditioned that the plaintiff, DeWitt Titus, pay all damages, rather than that the defendant, Edmund Rahal, pay them, and (b) it was filed with the Clerk of Chatham Superior Court instead of with the clerk of the city court.
These grounds are without merit. The bond was prepared by the defendant in attachment and any ineptness in its wording resulted from his own authorship. One cannot take advantage of his own wrong.
The bond was delivered by the defendant in attachment to the sheriff, who thereupon released the property levied on back to him and it was the sheriff who mistakenly delivered the bond to the wrong court. No harm did or could result from that, however, for the bond is not lost. It is now among the court records in the city court, as is evidenced by the fact that the clerk of the city court has included and sent up to this court a copy of it along with other papers specified as a part of the record. The inadvertent or erroneous filing of the bond with the clerk of the superior court did not affect its validity nor release the principal and sureties from the liability thereunder which they assumed upon its execution.
3. The plea of failure of consideration alleged that the consideration for the notes was the forbearance on the part of the plaintiff in pressing unnamed alleged claims, and that the plaintiff had not forborne as agreed. This was no more than an enlargement of the plea of the general issue. "Forbearance, to constitute legal consideration, must be such as will tie the creditor's hands for a definite time established between the parties. In the case at bar there was no definite time of delay agreed upon by the parties, such as would constitute a valid consideration." Ballentine Motors of Ga. v. Nimmons, 93 Ga. App. 708, 709 (92 SE2d 714).
Consequently, all that is alleged in the plea is that the notes sued on were without consideration. "A mere allegation that a note is wholly without consideration, and therefore null and void and unenforceable, amounts to nothing more than a plea of general issue." Dixon v. Bond, 18 Ga. App. 45 (2) (88 SE 825). Thus, this plea was properly dismissed.
4. The plea and answer was likewise merely a plea of the general issue. The defendant says that he "can neither admit nor deny" paragraph 1 of the declaration, in which it is alleged that the defendant is indebted on a promissory note (copy attached as Exhibit "A") in a stated sum and then demands "strict proof" of the amount of interest charged. The same is true as to paragraph 2 of the answer, dealing with the other note sued on.
"A mere statement in an answer to a paragraph of a petition, that the defendant 'neither admits nor denies' such paragraph, without giving the reason for failing so to do, is no answer, and must be treated as an admission." Southern Bell Tel. Co. v. Shamos, 12 Ga. App. 463 (3) (77 SE 312); Pollard v. Walton, 55 Ga. App. 353, 358 (190 SE 396).
As to the matter of interest, since a copy of the note is attached, and thus a part of the declaration, it is a matter of calculation as to what interest is due, and if the plaintiff seeks to recover more than is due, that is a matter that the defendant can easily assert in a plea or answer. See Gazaway v. Israel, 107 Ga. App. 389, 390 (130 SE2d 269); Code 57-103, 81-901. If he does not do so, the allegation stands admitted, and standing admitted no amount of demanding "strict proof" can amount to anything, for there is nothing to prove.
As to whether the defendant has paid the notes or any part thereof, this is a matter that is as much within his knowledge as it is of the plaintiff, and if he asserts that there has been any payment it is a matter that must be specially pled. Code 81-307. This extends not only to the defendant in attachment, but to the sureties on his bond-his codefendants, who, by their signing of the replevy bond, have become co-obligors on the principal's obligation. Rawleigh Co. v. Royal, 30 Ga. App. 706 (7) (119 SE 339). There was no error in striking the answer.
5. The plea of bankruptcy was valid. It appears that the adjudication of the defendant in attachment as a bankrupt occurred more than four months after the levy of the attachment, in which situation the plaintiff was entitled to proceed to judgment against both the defendant in attachment and the sureties on his replevy bond, but with a perpetual stay of execution as to the defendant himself. Alvaton Mercantile Co. v. Caldwell, 15 Ga. 317, 319, supra.
Judgment affirmed with direction that the trial court amend its judgment so as to grant to Rahal a perpetual stay. Eberhardt and Russell, JJ., concur.
Kennedy & Sognier, John G. Kennedy, Jr., contra.
John J. Sullivan, W. Ward Newton, for plaintiffs in error.
DECIDED MAY 27, 1963.
Friday May 22 22:28 EDT

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