A receipt is an acknowledgment in writing that the party giving the same has received from the person therein named, the money or other thing therein specified.
Although expressed to be in full of all demands, it is only prima facie evidence of what it purports to be and upon satisfactory proof being made that it was obtained by fraud, or given either under a mistake of facts or an ignorance of law, it may be inquired into and corrected in a court of law as well as in equity. A receipt in full, given with a full knowledge of all the circumstances and in the absence of fraud, seems to be conclusive.A receipt sometimes contains an acknowledgment of having received a thing, and also an agreement to do another. It is only prima facie evidence as far as the receipt goes, but it cannot be contradicted by parol evidence in any part by which the party engages to perform a contract. A bill of lading, for example, partakes of both these characters; it may be contradicted or explained as to the facts stated in the recital, as that the goods were in good order and well conditioned; but, in other respects, it cannot be contradicted in any other manner than a common written contract.
If a man by his receipt acknowledges that he has received money from an agent on account of his principal, and thereby accredits the agent with the principal to that amount, such receipt is, it seems, conclusive as to the payment by the agent. For example, the usual acknowledgment in a policy of insurance of the receipt of premium from the assured, is conclusive of the fact as between the underwriter and the assured; although such receipt would not be so between the underwriter and the broker. And if an agent empowered to contract for sale, sell and convey land, enter into articles of agreement by which it is stipulated that the vendee shall clear, make improvements, pay the purchase money by installments, etc., and on the completion of the covenants to be performed by him, receive from the vendor or his legal representatives, a good and sufficient warranty deed in fee for the premises, the receipt of the agent for Such parts of the purchase-money as may be paid before the execution of the deed, is binding on the principal. A receipt on the back of a bill of exchange is prima facie evidence of payment by the acceptor. The giving of a receipt does not exclude parol evidence of payment.
In Pennsylvania it has been holden that a receipt, not under seal, to one of several joint debtors, for his proportion of the debt, discharges the rest. But in New York a contrary rule has been adopted.