Rescission and reformation are generally thought of as remedies appropriate to courts of equity. There are, however, obvious limitations to the power of equity to grant relief. Equity will entertain a bill for reformation only where a writing is involved; and the right to maintain a suit for cancellation or rescission and restitution is dependent either on the contract or conveyance being written or relating to such a subject-matter that the remedy at law is deemed inadequate. The right to maintain an action at law for money paid under substantially the same kinds of mistake as courts of equity have regarded as giving jurisdiction for the rescission of a written contract to sell land is well settled 80 and similar redress may be sought in an appropriate case for goods delivered or services rendered under a mistake.81 Payments in counterfeit money or forged securities may likewise be rescinded.82
Fudge v. Payne, 86 Va. 303, 10 S. E. 7; Jarrell v. Jamil, 27 W. Va. 743; Meiswinkel v. St. Paul F. & M. Ins. Co., 75 Wis. 147, 43 N. W. 669, 6 L. R. A. 200.
78 Stille v. McDowell, 2 Kans. 374, 85 Am. Dec. 590; Wall v. Meilke, 89 Minn. 232, 94 N. W. 688; Southard v. Curley, 134 N. Y. 148,31 N. E. 330,16 L. R. A. 561, 30 Am. St. Rep. 642; Archer v. California Lumber Co., 24 Or. 341, 33 Pac. 526.
79 Campbell v. Northwest Eckington Imp. Co., 229 U. S. 561, 57 L. Ed. 1330, 33 S. Ct. 796; Philippine Sugar Est. Ac. Co. v. Philippine Islands, 247 U. S. 385, 62 L. Ed. 1177, 38 S. Ct. 513; Upson Nat. Co. v. American Shipbuilding Co., 251 Fed. 707, 709; Ezell v.' Humphrey, 90 Ark. 24, 117 S. W. 758; Connecticut F. Ins. Co. v. Wigginton, 134 Ark. 152, 203 S. W. 844; Sullivan v. Moorhead, 99 Cal. 157, 33 Pac. 796; Loukowski v. Pryor, 46 Col. 584, 106 Pac. 7; Robertson v. Rigsby, (Ga. 1918), 95 8. E. 973; Rexroat v. Vaughn, 181 111. 167, 54 N. E. 917; Anderson ». Stewart, 281
111. 69, 117 N. E. 743; Murphy v. First Nat. Bank, 95 Iowa, 325, 63 N. W. 702; Dare v. Foy, 180 la. 1156, 164 N. W. 179; Mahoning Coal Co. v. Dowling (Ky.), 124 S. W. 370; Scott v. Spurr, 169 Ky. 575, 184 S. W. 866; jEtna Indemnity Co. v. Baltimore, etc., R. Co., 112 Md. 389, 76 Atl. 251, 136 Am. St. Rep. 389; Robertson v. Smith, 191 Mich. 660, 158 N. W. 207, Ann. Cas. 1918 D. 145; German-American Ins. Co. v. Davis, 131 Mass. 316; Mikiska v. Mikiska, 90 Minn. 258, 95 N. W. 910; Griffin v. Miller, 188 Mo. 327, 87 S. W. 455; Story v. Gammell, 68 Neb. 709, 94 N. W. 982; Green v. Stone, 54 N., J. Eq. 387, 34 Atl. 1099, 55 Am. St. Rep. 577; Harding v. Long, 103 N. C. 1, 9 S. E. 445, 14 Am. St. Rep. 775; Clayton v. Freet, 10 Ohio St. 544; Manley v. Smith, 88 Oreg. 176, 171 Pac. 897; Furuset v. Aaby, 88 Oreg. 278, 170 Pac. 1180, 171 Pac. 1054; School District v. Hartong, 89 Oreg. 155, 173 Pac. 570; Cranston Print Works v. Dyer, 19 R. I. 208, 32 Atl. 922; Kropp v. Kropp, 97 Wis. 137, 72 N. W. 381.
The same fundamental reason not only for rescission but for reformation may arise in regard to oral contracts or sales concerning ordinary personal property as in regard to written contracts or deeds concerning land. Here, as in not a few other cases, courts of law have had presented to them the alternative of attempting to adapt equitable relief to legal procedure, or of leaving the parties without relief. And, here as usually, courts of law are more and more disposed to take the former alternative. There is also a tendency for courts of law to assume the functions of courts of equity even in cases where unquestionably relief might be obtained by an equitable proceeding. Instances of this may be found even in the Federal Courts.83
There seems no reason to doubt that wherever equitable pleas are allowed at law, either under a code procedure or otherwise, even in cases where a bill to rescind for mistake of fact might be entertained as a direct equitable proceeding, such a mistake of fact as equity would regard ground for unconditional rescission may be set up as a defence to an action at law. Judgment for the defendant by a court of law has the same practical effect as a decree of rescission by a court of equity.84
80 See supra, Sec. 1574.
81 See supra, Sec. 1575.
82 See supra, Sec. 1572.
83 In United States v. Charles, 74 Fed. 142,20 C. C. A. 346,36 U. S. App. 766, a mail contractor was sued on a written contract to carry from T the mail for V. Shortly before the contract was made the Poet-Office at V had been discontinued, and this fact had been unknown or not present to the minds of the contracting parties. To fulfil the contract it would be necessary to carry the mail for V to Q some distance further and across a river. Though the observance between law and equity in the Federal Courts has been sharper than in any other courts, it was held that the mutual mistake of fact was a good defence at law to the Government's action.
84Zuspann v. Roy, 102 Kan. 188, 170 Pac. 387; Eustis Mfg. Co. p. Saoo Brick Co., 198 Mass. 212, 217, 84 N. £. 449; Barlow v. Elliott, 56 Mo. App. 374; Gill v. Pelkey, 54 Ohio St. 348, 360, 43 N. E. 991; Raymond v. Toledo, etc., R. Co., 57 Ohio St. 271, 48 N. E. 1093. See also Scott v. Iittledaie, 8 E. & B. 815, where the equitable plea at law was held bad only because in that case equity would not have rescinded the contract. See also Pierson v. McCahill, 21 Cal. 123.
In Alabama, etc., Railway Co. v. Jones, 73 Miss. 110, 127, 19 So. 105; 55 Am. St. Rep. 488, the court said,