If money paid to prevent the sale of one's property in satisfaction of another's obligation may be recovered, it follows that in case of an actual sale the owner may either purchase his own property at such sale,2 or permit it to be purchased by a third person, and recover the purchase price from the obligor.3
It should be noted that the law may compel one indirectly to discharge another's obligation without a sale or a threatened sale of one's goods. Thus, the assignee for value of a chose in action may have his judgment diminished by a claim of set-off against the assignor of which the assignee had no notice. This amounts to a compulsory sacrifice of the assignee's property in the discharge of the assignor's obligation, and if the contract of assignment affords no remedy against the assignor the assignee may recover in quasi contract:
1 Keener, "Quasi-Contracts," p. 395.
2 Wells v. Porter, 1831, 7 Wend. (N. Y.) 119; Hunt p. Amidon, 1842, 4 Hill (N. Y.) 345; 40 Am. Dec. 283.
3 Edmunds v. Wallingford, 1885, 14 Q. B. D. 811, (action by the trustee in bankruptcy of two sons of the defendant to recover the amount realized by the sale of goods which, as between the father and his sons, belonged to the sons, but which, because of circumstances estopping the sons from denying their father's title, had been sold by the sheriff under a judgment against the father). And see Sargent 9. Currier, 1870, 49 N. H. 310; 6 Am. Rep. 524.
Ticonic Bank v. Smiley, 1847, 27 Me. 225: Assumpsit by the pledgees of a note against the payee, who had indorsed it "indorser not holden," to recover the sum of $51.80, which sum was due from the said payee to the maker of the note on an account and was set off by the maker when sued on the note by the pledgees. Whitman, C.J. (p. 229): "But, by the operation of law, the plaintiffs have been compelled, in effect, to pay a debt due from him [defendant]. . . . The plaintiffs, not being apprised of any such claim in set-off, were entitled to find the note free from any such claim; but by the operation of law were, nevertheless, compelled to pay a debt, which in equity and good conscience the defendant should have kept from being so claimed and paid. He may therefore be considered as having in effect, requested, or perhaps more properly, as having compelled the plaintiffs to pay the amount claimed."
It is an accepted principle that one who, in the discharge of his own legal obligation, has done that which as between himself and another rested in equity and good conscience upon the latter, is entitled to restitution of the benefit thereby conferred.1 The most frequent and important application of the principle is to cases (1) of indemnity of sureties by their principals, (2) of contribution between sureties or other co-contractors, (3) of contribution between joint tort-feasors, and (4) of indemnity of tort-feasors. This is not the place for a comprehensive treatment of these, but the nature of the obligation will be briefly considered.