Quackenboss vs. Buffington
About This Case
In 1853, the Florida Supreme Court considered the case of Samuel Buffington v. John Quackenboss.
This case was based on the defendant’s breach of an implied promise to pay a debt to the plaintiff. Samuel Buffington, the owner and proprietor of the Buffington Hotel in Jacksonville, wrote a promissory note in October of 1850 to George F. Skiff for $140. The note promised that Buffington would repay Skiff or the bearer of the note after 60 days. At some point before January 1851, Skiff endorsed the note to John Quackenboss, who then filed suit in Duval Circuit Court demanding payment of the note. The case was heard in May of 1851.
Buffington filed an account of expenses with the court incurred by Quackenboss, presumably at the hotel as it included boarding expenses for 30 days. The expenses ($178) exceeded the amount of the promissory note, and Buffington offered it as a setoff, or a counterbalance of the debt, to the plaintiff. Quackenboss must have accepted the set off and motioned to the court to dismiss the suit. However, Buffington’s counsel took exception and assigned the judgment as error.
Buffington’s counsel held that it was not correct of the circuit court to dismiss the action at the instance of the plaintiff (Quackenboss) without the consent of the defendant. The Supreme Court disagreed. The court maintained that the plaintiff had the right to discontinue a suit at any time before a verdict; the plaintiff may at any time discontinue his cause in the Clerk’s Office, by paying costs and entering a written discontinuance.
While the defendant (Buffington) had the right to plead a setoff, it could not affect the right of the plaintiff to discontinue his action, nor could it force the plaintiff to a trial. The judgment of the lower court was affirmed.