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Huntington V. Attrill Notes

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HUNTINGTON V. ATTRILL FACTS The appellant, in June, 1880, became a creditor for money lent to the Rockaway Beach Improvement Company, Limited, which carried on business in the State of New York, being incorporated pursuant to Chapter 611 of the State laws of 1875. Sect. 21 of the Act provides that: "If any certificate or report made, or public notice given, by the officers of any such corporation, shall be false in any material representation, all the officers who shall have signed the same shall be jointly and severally liable for all the debts of the corporation contracted while they are officers thereof." The respondent was, in June, 1880, a director, and in that capacity an officer of the company within the meaning of the statute. On the 30th of that month he, along with other officers of the company, signed and verified on oath, as prescribed by sect. 37, a certificate setting forth that the whole capital stock had, at its date, been paid up in cash. In the year 1883, the appellant instituted a suit against the respondent before the Supreme Court of New York State for the unpaid balance of his loan to the company, alleging that the certificate contained representations which were material and false, and that the respondent had incurred personal responsibility for the debt as provided by sect. 21. The respondent defended the action; but, a verdict having been found against him, the Court, on the 15th of June, 1886, gave final judgment, ordering him to pay to the appellant the sum of $100,240. Having failed to recover payment, the appellant, in September, 1886, brought an action upon his decree in the Common Pleas Division of the High Court of Justice for the Province of Ontario, where the respondent resided. The only plea stated in defence was to the effect that the judgment sued on was for a penalty inflicted by the municipal law of New York; and that the action being one of a penal character ought not to be entertained by the Courts of a foreign State. HOLDING Characterisation as penal is a matter for the forum court Their Lordships cannot assent to the proposition that, in considering whether the present action was penal in such sense as to oust their jurisdiction, the Courts of Ontario were bound to pay absolute deference to any interpretation which might have been put upon the Statute of 1875 in the State of New York. They had to construe and apply an international rule, which is a matter of law

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