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action, law and sum

DEBT, Action of. This is one of the old est procedures known to the common law and in its origin of a personal right or proprietary nature. The law officer was commanded by the writ of debt to order the defendant to return to the plaintiff the sum of money or property, of which he unjustly deprived him; and if the defendant refused, he was to give his reason in the King's Court. The action was often set tled with trial by battle. After the evolution and development of the action of assumpsit (q.v.), that action for a time supplanted action of debt on simple contracts. At common law there was perhaps no action which had so ex tensive and varied an application. While in modern procedure it has been found unwise to extend this form of remedy, where its limits are definite and clearly established, it has never theless been given a much wider scope than the language of the elementary writers would seem to justify. While no longer in vogue in Eng

land, in some jurisdictions in the United States, statutes have expressly declared this remedy to be appropriate for the enforcement of certain obligations or the recovery of designated pen alties. It has long been held and is now so well recognized by the courts as a whole that it may be said to be a general rule, that action for debt is a concurrent remedy with assump sit upon all simple contracts where the sum to be recovered is certain or may readily be as certained either from the contract itself or by operation of law. A distinguishing feature of this action is that it lies only for the recovery of a sum certain, or readily reducible to a cer tainty from fixed data or agreement, as dis tinguished from unliquidated or unascertained damages. See DEBT; DEBTOR AND CREDITOR,