248 US 289 Flexner v. Farson

248 U.S. 289

39 S.Ct. 97

63 L.Ed. 250

FARSON et al.

No. 101.

Submitted Dec. 18, 1918.

Decided Jan. 7, 1919.

Mr. J. S. Laurent, of Louisville, Ky., for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 289-291 intentionally omitted]

Messrs. Harry P. Weber and George W. Miller, both of Chicago, Ill., for defendants in error.

Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.


This is an action brought by the plaintiff in error upon a judgment for money rendered by a Kentucky Court. The declaration alleges that the transaction in respect of which the judgment was rendered took place at Louisville, Kentucky, and that at that time the defendants were doing business there as partners through Washington Flexner, who was and continued to be their agent until the time of this suit. It further alleges that the defendants were non-residents and that the service of summons of the Kentucky suit was made upon Washington Flexner in accordance with a Kentucky statute (Civ. Code Prac. § 51) authorizing it to be made in that way. The defendant William Farson was the only one served with process in the present action and he pleaded that the defendants in the former suit did not reside in Kentucky, were not served with process and did not appear; that Washington Flexner was not their agent at the time of service upon him; that the Kentucky statute relied upon was unconstitutional; that the Kentucky Court had no jurisdiction, and that its judgment was void under the Constitution of the United States. The plaintiff demurred to the pleas, and stood upon his demurrer when it was overruled, whereupon judgment was entered for the defendants. There was an appeal to the Supreme Court of the State on the ground that the Court below did not give full faith and credit to the Kentucky judgment and erred in holding the Kentucky statute as to service unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed the judg ment below. 268 Ill. 435, 109 N. E. 327, Ann. Cas. 1916D, 810. The same errors are alleged here.


It is argued that the pleas tacitly admit that Washington Flexner was agent of the firms at the time of the transaction sued upon in Kentucky, and the Kentucky statute is construed as purporting to make him agent to receive service in suits arising out of the business done in that State. On this construction it is said that the defendants by doing business in the State consented to be bound by the service prescribed. The analogy of suits against insurance companies based upon such service is invoked. Mutual Reserve Fund Life Association v. Phelps, 190 U. S. 147, 23 Sup. Ct. 707, 47 L. Ed. 987. But the consent that is said to be implied in such cases is a mere fiction, founded upon the accepted doctrine that the States could exclude foreign corporations altogether, and therefore could establish this obligation as a condition to letting them in. Lafayette Ins. Co. v. French, 18 How. 404, 15 L. Ed. 451; Pennsylvania Fire Ins. Co. v. Gold Issue Mining & Milling Co., 243 U. S. 93, 96, 37 Sup. Ct. 344, 61 L. Ed. 610. The State had no power to exclude the defendants and on that ground without going farther the Supreme Court of Illinois rightly held that the analogy failed, and that the Kentucky judgment was void. If the Kentucky statute purports to have the effect attributed to it, it cannot have that effect in the present case. New York Life Ins. Co. v. Dunlevy, 241 U. S. 518, 522, 523, 36 Sup. Ct. 613, 60 L. Ed. 1140.


Judgment affirmed.