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decided: February 16, 1942.



Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Byrnes, Jackson

Author: Reed

[ 315 U.S. Page 345]

 MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

Coca-Cola International Corporation, incorporated in Delaware, filed a bill of interpleader in a Delaware Court of Chancery against Julian Riley and Hughes Spalding, petitioners here, the Executors of Mrs. Julia M. Hungerford, with letters testamentary issued by the Court of Ordinary of Fulton County, Georgia, and against The New York Trust Company, the respondent, a New York corporation, as temporary administrator (afterward administrator c. t. a.) of the same decedent, appointed by the Surrogate's Court for New York County, New York.

The Georgia executors and the New York administrator each claim the right to have transferred to them, in their representative capacity, stock in the Coca-Cola Corporation now on its books in the name of the decedent. The outstanding certificates are in Georgia, in the hands of the Georgia executors. The parties are agreed, and it

[ 315 U.S. Page 346]

     is therefore assumed, that Delaware is the situs of the stock. In accordance with the prayer of the bill, the Delaware court directed the adversary claimants to interplead between themselves as to their respective claims.

The Georgia executors assert that original domiciliary probate of Mrs. Hungerford's will in solemn form was obtained by them in Georgia, with all beneficiaries and heirs at law of testatrix, including her husband, Robert Hungerford, actual parties by personal service. These, it is conceded, were all the parties under the law of Georgia entitled to be heard on the probate of the will. The respondent administrator c. t. a. was not a party. The record of probate includes a determination by special finding, over the objection of the caveator, the husband, that the testatrix was domiciled in Georgia. The special finding was specifically approved as an essential fact to determine the jurisdiction of the Court of Ordinary by the highest court of Georgia in its affirmance of the probate. Hungerford v. Spalding, 183 Ga. 547, 189 S. E. 2.

These facts were alleged by petitioners in their statement of claim to the stock filed below in response to the decree of interpleader. Exemplified copies of the probate record of the several Georgia courts were pleaded and proven, as were the applicable Georgia statutes governing domiciliary probate. From the facts alleged, petitioners inferred the conclusive establishment of the place for domiciliary distribution against "all persons," and prayed the issue to them of new certificates. An offer was made to pay all Delaware taxes or charges on the stock. At the trial, petitioners relied upon Article IV, § 1, of the Federal Constitution,*fn1 the full faith and credit clause, as determinative of their right to the new certificates. The

[ 315 U.S. Page 347]

     pleading and trial contention adequately raised the Constitutional question. Tilt v. Kelsey, 207 U.S. 43, 50.

Respondent admitted that all parties entitled under the law of Georgia to be heard in opposition to probate were actually before the Georgia courts. It denied that Mrs. Hungerford was domiciled in Georgia or that the Georgia judgment of domicile and probate was binding on it, and averred testatrix's domicile at death was New York. It further averred that there were New York creditors of the estate interested in the proper and lawful administration of the estate, and that New York had certain claims for inheritance and estate taxes. Its own subsequent appointment by the Surrogate's Court of New York County, New York, on the suggestion of testatrix's husband and the State Tax Commission, was pleaded with applicable provisions of New York probate and estate tax law. By stipulation it was established that petitioners and the heirs and beneficiaries of testatrix, except her husband, who was an actual party, were notified of the New York proceedings for probate only by publication or substituted service of the citation in Georgia, and did not appear. As a domiciliary administrator c. t. a., the respondent prayed the issue to it of new certificates for the stock in controversy.

The trial court concluded from the evidence adduced at the hearings that the testatrix was domiciled in Georgia. It was therefore, as the court stated, unnecessary for it to consider the binding effect of the Georgia judgment.*fn2 The Supreme Court of Delaware reversed this finding of fact, determined that New York was testatrix's domicile and denied petitioners' contention that Article IV, § 1, of ...

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