Old debts

Would you believe a 77-year-old woman in Florida wants to collect on a 147-year-old promissory note?

TAMPA — In the early months of the Civil War, the city of Tampa needed ammunition and other supplies to defend against attack but apparently was short on cash.

So it issued a promissory note for $299.58 to storekeeper Thomas Pugh Kennedy on June 21, 1861.

Kennedy’s great-granddaughter says the city never made good on its loan. Now, Joan Kennedy Biddle and her family are suing to collect the payment plus 8 percent annual interest.

The total bill: $22.7-million.

“Obviously we came at a bad time because the city seems like they’re trying to cut their budget,” she said. “On the other hand, they’re building the Riverwalk.”

Attorney James Purdy filed the suit in the Hillsborough Circuit Court last week.


Tampa City Attorney David Smith said he doesn’t consider the claim valid.

In legal documents, Biddle’s attorney argues that the statute of limitations doesn’t apply in the case because at the time the note was issued, the state had no such statute on such documents.

And Biddle pointed out that in the 1990s the federal government agreed to pay the Seminole tribe for land illegally taken in the 1820s.

But attorney John Grandoff said the city can defend against the case using the “doctrine of laches,” which prevents claims from being made after an extraordinary passage of time.

It is amazing someone comes along only now to collect or maybe not? Who knows when it comes to Florida. Isn’t this a great state or what?

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