This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
Payment of illegal local assessments, made under duress, may be recovered.1 If such payment is made voluntarily it cannot be recovered.2 As in the case of taxes, the conflict of authority appears when we attempt to pass from such general statements to a discussion of what constitutes payment under duress. The difference between payment of assessments and payment of taxes is that while the tax is usually a personal debt enforceable out of property generally and sometimes against the person, an assessment rarely is a personal debt. Payment of assessments has been held to be under duress where realty subject to the lien thereof has been3 or is about to be sold4 in proceedings to enforce the lien of such assessments. Thus where proper authorities have begun active proceedings to collect such assessments5 or have ordered that such proceedings be begun,6 payment thereof is not voluntary. On the other hand, payment to avoid the addition of interest7 or of a penalty in money8 is not made under duress. Even the sale for a void assessment, if it is void and casts no cloud on the title,9 as where the purchaser at the sale has the burden of proving the validity of the sale,10 has been held not to be compulsion; and a payment compelled by threat of such a sale is in the law a voluntary payment. As in the case of taxes it must be observed that a method of testing the validity of a tax which requires a sale of property thereunder is most unfair and inadequate. Payment under protest is not necessarily under duress.11 If a means is given by law for testing the validity of the assessment without awaiting the seizure and sale of one's property,12 as by an injunction suit,13 or if the levy may be resisted as illegal,14 such means must be resorted to: and a failure so to do shows that in law the payment is voluntary. It has been held that money paid on an assessment, illegal but not void on its face, cannot be recovered until the assessment has been set aside in a proceeding brought for that purpose.15
39 De Graff v. Ramsey County, 46 Minn. 319; 48 N. W. 1135; Bradley v. Laconia, 66 N. H. 269; 20 Atl. 331; Jamaica, etc., Road Co. v. Brooklyn, 123 N. Y. 375; 25 X. E. 476; Pooley v. Buffalo, 122 N. Y. 592; 26 N. E. 16, 624.
40 All Saints Parish v. Brookline, 178 Mass. 404; 52 L. R. A. 778; 59 N. E. 1003.
41 Trustees v. Thoman, 51 O. S. 285; 37 N.E. 523.
42 Greenbaum v. King, 4 Kan. 332; 96 Am. Dec. 172.
1 Magnolia (Town of) v. Shar-man, 46 Ark. 358; Gill v. Oakland, 124 Cal. 335: 57 Pac. 150; MeCon-ville v. St. Paul. 75 Minn. 383; 74
Am. St. Rep. 508; 43 L. R. A. 584; 77 N. W. 993; Poth v. New York, 151 N. Y. 16; 45 N. E. 372.
2 Richardson v. Denver, 17 Colo. 398; 30 Pac. 333; Hoke v. Atlanta, 107 Ga. 416; 33 S. E. 412; New-comb v. Davenport, 86 la. 291; 53 N. W. 232; Louisville v. Anderson, 79 Ky. 334; 42 Am. Rep. 220; Hopkins v. Butte, 16 Mont. 103; 40 Pac, 171: Fuller v. Elizabeth, 42 N. J. L. 427; United States Trust Co. v. New York, 144 N. Y. 488; 39 N. E. 383; Redmond v. New York, 125 N. Y. 632; 26 N. E. 727; Whitbeck v. Minch, 48 O. S. 210; 31 N. E. 743; Bank v. Memphis, 107 Tenn. 66; 64 S. W. 13.
3Keehn v. McGillicuddy, 19 Ind. App. 427; 49 N. E. 609.
4Poth v. New York, 151 N. Y. 16; 45 N. E. 372; Vaughn v. Port Chester, 135 N. Y. 460; 32 N. E. 137.
5Poth v. New York, 151 N. Y. 16; 45 N. E. 372.
6 Vaughn v. Port Chester, 135 N. Y. 460; 32 N. E. 137.
7 Vanderbeck v. Rochester, 122 N. Y. 285; 25 N. E. 408.
8 Decker v. Perry (Cal.), 35 Pac. 1017.
9 Phelan v. San Francisco, 120 Cal. 1; 52 Pac. 38.
10Davies v. Galveston, 16 Tex. Civ. App. 13; 41 S. W. 145.
11 First National Bank v. Ameri-cus, 68 Ga. 119; 45 Am. Rep. 476; Hawkeye, etc., Co. v. Marion, 110 la. 468; 81 N. W. 718; Whitbeck v. Minch. 48 O. S. 210; 31 N. E. 743; Peebles v. Pittsburgh. 101 Pa. St. 304; 47 Am. Rep. 714.
12 Hoke v. Atlanta, 107 Ga. 416; 33 S. E. 412.
13 Whitbeck v. Minch, 48 O. S. 210; 31 N. E. 743.
14Union Pacific Ry. v. (Commissioners of) Dodge County. 98 U. S. 541; Hoke v. Atlanta, 107 Ga. 416; 33 S. E. 412.