261 U.S. 592 (1923), 305, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 305
Citation:261 U.S. 592, 43 S.Ct. 425, 67 L.Ed. 816
Party Name:Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company v. United States
Case Date:April 09, 1923
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 592

261 U.S. 592 (1923)

43 S.Ct. 425, 67 L.Ed. 816

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company


United States

No. 305

United States Supreme Court

April 9, 1923

        Argued March 12, 1923



        1. The Dent Act, c. 94, 40 Stat. 1272, was intended to remedy irregularities and informalities in the mode of entering into the agreements to which it relates; not to enlarge the authority of the agents by whom they were made. P. 596.

        2. The "implied agreement" contemplated by this act is not an agreement "implied in law," or quasi contract, but an agreement "implied in fact" founded on a meeting of minds inferred, as a fact, from conduct of the parties in the light of surrounding circumstances. P. 597.

Page 593

        3. Findings of fact showing that the claimant railway company constructed temporary barracks for troops who were guarding its property as well as that of the government, and undertook this without any order from their commanding officer, but voluntarily and without mentioning compensation, apparently from its own desire to provide for the comfort of the troops -- held an insufficient basis for implying an agreement that the government would pay the cost of construction. P. 599.

        57 Ct.Clms. 140 affirmed.

        Appeal from a judgment of the Court of Claims dismissing the petition, after a hearing upon the merits, in an action to recover compensation under the Dent Act.

        SANFORD, J., lead opinion

        MR. JUSTICE SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

        The Railway Company filed its petition, under the Dent Act (March 2, 1919, c. 94, 40 Stat. 1272), to recover compensation for constructing temporary barracks for the use of United States troops under an "implied agreement" alleged to have been entered into by it with the United States in December, 1917, through Col. Kimball, Expeditionary Quartermaster of the War Department at Locust Point, Baltimore, Maryland, acting under the authority of the Secretary of War. The Court of Claims, after a hearing on the merits and upon its findings of fact, dismissed the petition. 57 Ct.Cls. 140.

        The material facts shown by the findings are these: the railroad company owned at Locust Point, a suburb of Baltimore, eight piers, which were guarded by its civilian employees. At the request of Col. Kimball, who was

Page 594

in charge of the expeditionary depot at Baltimore and of the supplies arriving for shipment to Europe, the company, in October, 1917, leased one of these piers to the government. Two of the other piers with much other property belonging to the company were destroyed or damaged by a fire supposed to be of incendiary origin. Thereupon, Col. Kimball and the president of the company separately requested the Secretary of War to send a guard; the vice-president of the company offering to supply a wrecking train as quarters for them. Two companies of the National Guard were sent to Locust Point, with sufficient tentage. They were quartered for a time in the wrecking train furnished by the company. Their duty was primarily to protect the government property and the piers leased by it, sending patrols throughout the railroad yard to guard cars containing its property, and generally to guard all the piers and property at Locust Point. The company, however, also maintained the civilian guards and a fire department for all of its property, whether leased or not. Later, the wrecking train having been moved away by the company, the troops moved into tents. The weather during the fall and winter was very cold and inclement. Most of the soldiers were Baltimoreans, and were frequently visited by their relatives. There was some sickness among them. Their relatives complained to the railroad officials [43 S.Ct. 426] of hardships they had to undergo in the tents, and these officials were anxious to make them as comfortable as possible. Several times in very cold weather, Col. Kimball remarked to the company's agent at Locust Point, whose duty it was to confer with him on railroad matters, that the troops ought to have better quarters. On one occasion, this agent suggested fitting up an unused transfer shed belonging to the company, standing near the pier that had been...

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