Although there is a lingering doubt as to whether the wrongful seizure or detention of personal property should be regarded as sufficiently compulsive to make a contract secured thereby voidable at law,3 it has been held from an early day that money (threat of attachment); Evans v. Gale, 1846, 18 N. H. 397, (threat of suit); Peebles v. Pittsburg, 1882, 101 Pa. St. 304; 47 Am. Rep. 714, (threat of collection by process of law); Flack v. Nat. Bank of Commerce. 1892, 8 Utah 193 ; 30 Pac. 746; 17 L. R. A. 583, (threat of attachment). And see Mayor, etc., of Baltimore v. Lefferman, 1846, 4 Gill (Md.), 425; 45 Am. Dec. 145; C. & J. Michel Brewing Co. v. State, 1905, 19 S. D. 302; 103 N. W. 40; 70 L. R. A. 911.
1 Loan, etc., Assn. v. Holland, 1895, 63 111. App. 58, 66; Hines v. Board of Comm'rs, 1883, 93 Ind. 266, 270; Harmon v. Harmon, 1873, 61 Me. 227 ; 14 Am. Rep. 556; Hilborn v. Bucknam, 1886, 78 Me. 482 ; 7 Atl. 272; 57 Am. Rep. 816; Betts v. Village of Reading, 1892, 93 Mich. 77; 52 N. W. 940.
2 Andrew v. St. Olave's Board of Works,  1 Q. B. 775; North v. Walthamstow Urban Council, 1898, 67 L. J., Q. B. 972; Haedicke v. Friern Barnet Urban Council,  2 K. B.807. Cf. Mayor, etc., of Baltimore v. Lefferman, 1846, 4 Gill (Md.) 425; 45 Am. Dec. 145.
3 That the contract is voidable: Spaids v. Barrett, 1870, 57 111. 289; 11 Am. Rep. 10, (perishable goods detained); Bennett v. Ford, 1874, 47 Ind. 264, (duress of person and goods); Wilkerson v. Hood, 1896,65 Mo. App. 491, (note given to secure release of mules); Foshay v. Ferguson, 1843, 5 Hill (N. Y.) 154, (threat to destroy); Collins v. Westbury, 1799, 2 Bay (S. C.) 211; 1 Am. Dec. 643, (seizure of slaves at distance from home); Oliphant v. Markham, 1891, 79 Tex. 543; 15 S. W. 569; 23 Am. St. Rep. 363, (note given to secure possession of evidences of paid to prevent such seizure or detention or to release property so seized or detained may be recovered.1 This is upon the theory that the immediate possession and enjoyment of property by its owner may be a matter of such importance to him that to deprive him of it, or to threaten to deprive him of it, for the purpose of extorting money from him is a species of compulsion :
Astley v. Reynolds, 1731, 2 Strange 916: Action to recover money paid in excess of legal interest to redeem plate pawned to the defendant. The plaintiff at first refused to pay the amount demanded by the defendant, but several months later, the defendant still refusing to give up the goods unless the excessive amount was paid, the plaintiff paid and obtained his goods. Per Curiam (p. 916): "We think also, that this is a payment by compulsion; the plaintiff might have such debt). Contra: Skeate v. Beal, 1841, 11 Ad. & El. 983, (excessive distress) ; Hazelrigg v. Donaldson, 1859, 2 Metc. (59 Ky.) 445, (wrongful attachment); Bingham v. Sessions, 1846, 6 Smed. & M. (14 Miss.) 13, (fraudulent execution); Williams v. Phelps, 1862, 16 Wis. 80, (unless "some peculiar and pressing necessity").
1 Astley v. Reynolds, 1731, 2 Strange 915, (payment to redeem pawned plate); Irving v. Wilson, 1791, 4 Term R. 485, (payment to revenue officer); Ashmole v. Wainwright, 1842, 2 Q. B. 837; 2 Gale & Dav. 217, (payment to carrier); Cobb v. Charter, 1865, 32 Conn. 359; 87 Am. Dec. 178, (mechanic's chest of tools); DuVall v. Norris, 1904, 119 Ga. 947; 47 S. E. 212, (money paid police officer to secure return of stolen ring); Fenwick Shipping Co. v. Clarke Bros., 1909, 133 Ga. 43; 65 S. E. 140, (payment to prevent seizure of baggage); Lafayette, etc., R. Co. v. Pattison, 1872, 41 Ind. 312, (payment to carrier) ; Chase v. Dwinal, 1830, 7 Greenl. (Me.) 134; 20 Am. Dec. 352, (illegal boomage); Whitlock Mach. Co. v. Holway, 1899, 92 Me. 414; 42 Atl. 799, (illegal claim for storage); Chandler v. Sanger, 1874, 114 Mass. 364; 19 Am. Rep. 367, (oppressive attachment); Fargusson v. Winslow, 1885, 34 Minn. 384; 25 N. W. 942, (illegal lien); Quinnett v. Washington, 1846, 10 Mo. 53, (wrongful distress); Baldwin v. Liver- pool, etc., S. S. Co., 1878, 74 N. Y. 125; 30 Am. Rep. 277, (payment to carrier); Clancy v. Dutton, 1908, 129 App. Div. 23; 113 N. Y. Supp. 124, (payment to carrier); Cowley v. Fabien, 1912, N. Y.
; 97 N. E. 458; Marsh v. Port Harbour Co., 1841, 6 U. C. Q. B. (O. S.) 100, (excessive toll); Alston v. Durant, 1847, 2 Strob. L. (S. C.) 257 ; 49 Am. Dec. 596, (excessive fees by sheriff); Buford v. Lonergan, 1889, 6 Utah 301; 22 Pac. 164; aff. Lonergan v. Buford, 1893,148 U. S. 581; 13 S. Ct. 684, (oppressive refusal to deliver cattle under contract).
an immediate want of his goods, that an action of trover would not do his business: where the rule volenti non fit injuria is applied, it must be where the party had his freedom of exercising his will, which this man had not; we must take it he paid the money relying on his legal remedy to get it back again."
Cobb v. Charter, 1865, 32 Conn. 358; 87 Am. Dec. 178: McCurdy, J. (p. 366): "The plaintiff was a mechanic. His chest of tools, which are held by statute sacred even from the touch of a creditor, were seized by the defendant. He refused to deliver them to the owner on demand except upon his paying, without the slightest obligation, the debt of another person. The plaintiff was thus deprived of the means of his support. Thereupon he left the money with Stratton to be paid to the defendant when the chest should be sent. Stratton so informed the defendant, who at once sent the chest and then received the money. In view of such extortion, oppression and taking an undue advantage of the plaintiff's situation, it seems somewhat bold in the defendant to come into a court of justice and assert that the payment was voluntary."
Qualifications of the rule have occasionally been made. For example, it has been held that money paid to obtain the release of goods distrained cannot be recovered if the goods might have been replevied by the plaintiff.1 Again, it has been suggested that the retention of the goods by the defendant must appear to be "fraught with great immediate hardship or irreparable injury." 2 But in most of the modern cases no limitation whatever is recognized. The doctrine has been applied to the unlawful seizure or detention not only of chattels, but of bonds, deeds, insurance policies, and negotiable instruments.1
1 Lindon v. Hooper, 1776,1 Cowp. 414, (wrongful distress); Knibbs v. Hall, 1794, 1 Esp. 84, (wrongful distress); Colwell v. Peden, 1834, 3 Watts (Pa.) 327, (wrongful distress). And see Chase v. Dwinal, 1830, 7 Greenl. (Me.) 134; 20 Am. Dec. 352, (illegal boomage); Harmony v. Bingham, 1854, 12 N. Y. 99; 62 Am. Dec. 142, (carrier); Peebles v. City of Pittsburg, 1882, 101 Pa. St. 304; 47 Am. Rep. 714, (unconstitutional assessment). But see, contra, Green v. Duckett, 1883, 11 Q. B. D. 275, (wrongful distress); Quinnett v. Washington, 1846, 10 Mo. 53, (wrongful distress).
2 See Cobb v. Charter, 1865, 32 Conn. 358, 365; 87 Am. Dec. 178; Fargusson v. Winslow, 1885, 34 Minn. 384, 386; 25 N. W. 942, ("circumstances of hardship or serious inconvenience"); Joannin v. Ogilvie, 1892, 49 Minn. 564, 567; 52 N. W. 217; 16 L. R. A. 376; 32 Am. St. Rep. 581, ("serious loss or great inconvenience").
Analogously, it was held in an early New York case,2 that the wrongful refusal by a corporation to transfer certain shares of stock on its books unless the buyer of the shares paid a debt from the seller to the corporation, was such duress as entitled the buyer, who yielded to the demand in order to secure the transfer of his stock, to recover the amount paid. "The equitable extension of this kind of action," said the court, "has of late been so liberal, that it will lie to recover money obtained from any one, by extortion, imposition, oppression, or taking an undue advantage of his situation. In the present case, there was, at least, an undue advantage taken of the plaintiff's situation." In a comparatively recent Pennsylvania case,3 on the other hand, the court declined to extend the doctrine to the refusal by a corporation to allot a certain number of shares of a new issue to a stockholder who had the right, by law, to subscribe for them at par, unless he paid an additional sum "for the privilege of buying." Said Chief Justice Paxson : "It is not pretended that there was a duress of person, nor was there anything to show duress of goods. There was nothing but the denial of a right, and a declared intention not to recognize a right is not duress."
1 Shaw v. Woodcock, 1827, 7 Barn. & Cress. 73, (policies); Close v. Phipps, 1844, 7 Man. & G. 586, (deeds); Wakefield v. Newbon, 1844, 6 Q. B. 276, (deeds); Oates v. Hudson, 1851, 6 Exch. 346, (deeds): Pem-berton v. Williams, 1877, 87 111. 15, (deed); McCabe v. Shaver, 1888, 69 Mich. 25 ; 36 N. W. 800, (draft); Bates v. N. Y. Ins. Co., 1802,3 Johns. Cas. (N. Y.) 238, (money paid to secure transfer of stock on company's books); Scholey v. Mumford, 1875, 60 N. Y. 498, (bonds; case came before Court of Appeals again in 72 N. Y. 578 and was decided on slightly different grounds); Gould v. Farmers' Loan, etc., Co., 1880, 23 Hun (N. Y. Sup. Ct.) 322, (stocks and bonds); Motz v. Mitchell, 1879, 91 Pa. St. 114, (deed); Lowenstein v. Bache, 1910, 41 Pa. Super. Ct. 552, (securities); Lovejoy v. Lee, 1862, 35 Vt. 430, (bank bills).
2 Bates v. N. Y. Ins. Co., 1802, 3 Johns. Cas. (N. Y.) 238, 239.
3 De la Cuesta v. Insurance Co., 1890, 136 Pa. St. 62, 82; 20 Atl. 505; 9 L. R. A. 631. See, in appendix to 136 Pa., the opinion of Hare, P.J., of the court of Common Pleas, in Dawson v. Ins. Co., which was argued in the Supreme Court with De la Cuesta v. Ins. Co.
These two cases, though strongly resembling each other, seem fairly distinguishable. In the former, the defendant, by refusing to transfer the shares on its books, practically withheld from the plaintiff specific stock which he had purchased from a third person and of which he was already the equitable owner;1 in the latter, the defendant withheld nothing that belonged in any sense to the plaintiff but simply refused to perform for his benefit a duty imposed upon it by law. In a word, it is the difference between a detention of property and a refusal to perform an obligation. Both cases, however, lie close to the frontier of duress, for under some circumstances a mere refusal to perform an obligation has been held sufficiently coercive to raise an obligation to repay money extorted thereby (see post, Sec. Sec. 219, 220).