374 F.2d 129 (4th Cir. 1967), 10640, Chandler v. Aero Mayflower Transit Co.

Docket Nº:10640.
Citation:374 F.2d 129
Party Name:William E. CHANDLER, Jr., Lewie E. Merritt, Jr., Selma G. Jones, Norwood Capital Corporation, a corporation, Richland Galleries, a corporation, and The Pickens Bank, a corporation, Appellants, v. AERO MAYFLOWER TRANSIT COMPANY, Inc., a corporation, Appellee.
Case Date:February 21, 1967
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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374 F.2d 129 (4th Cir. 1967)

William E. CHANDLER, Jr., Lewie E. Merritt, Jr., Selma G. Jones, Norwood Capital Corporation, a corporation, Richland Galleries, a corporation, and The Pickens Bank, a corporation, Appellants,

v.

AERO MAYFLOWER TRANSIT COMPANY, Inc., a corporation, Appellee.

No. 10640.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

February 21, 1967

Argued Dec. 6, 1966.

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William E. Chandler, Jr., Greenville, S.C. (William T. Jones and James E. Moore, Greenwood, S.C., on brief), for appellants.

E. W. Mullins and R. Bruce Shaw, Columbia, S.C. (Claude M. Scarborough, Jr., and Nelson, Mullins, Grier & Scarborough, Columbia, S.C., on brief), for appellee.

Before BOREMAN, BRYAN and CRAVEN, Circuit Judges.

CRAVEN, Circuit Judge:

This is a suit by William E. Chandler, Jr. (shipper) 1 against Aero Mayflower Transit Company (carrier) to recover the value of household property destroyed by fire while in transit in the carrier's van between Columbia, South Carolina, and San Francisco, California. The principal question for decision is whether the shipper is entitled to recover the fair market value of his property on the basis of the carrier's liability as it existed at common law or whether by reason of the provisions of 49 U.S.C.A. Section 20(11) he is limited in his recovery to the 'released value of the property.' 2

At the close of the evidence offered by the shipper, the carrier moved for a directed verdict that the shipper recover the released value of the property at the rate of thirty cents per pound, amounting here to $1,860.00. The shipper contends that the true value of the property was $31,500.00. From the allowance of the motion for directed verdict 3 the shipper appeals.

The rule in the federal courts with respect to the power of the district judge to withdraw a case from the jury is not so narrow as in some state jurisdictions. We do not follow the scintilla rule; 'a scintilla of evidence is not sufficient to require the submission of an issue to a jury' in the federal courts, United States v. J. E. Bohannon Co., 232 F.2d 756 (6th Cir. 1956).

But even so, 'in deciding whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the party against whom the motion is made is entitled to the benefit of every inference that may reasonably be drawn in his favor. The court should not supplant the jury if there is any room whatever for disagreement.' Richmond Television Corp. v. United States, 354 F.2d 410, 414 (4th Cir. 1965) .

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The standard for weighing evidence for submission to the jury is subject only to the admonition that 'mere speculation be not allowed to do duty for probative facts, after making due allowance for all reasonably possible inferences favoring the party whose case is attacked.' Galloway v. United States, 319 U.S. 372, 395, 63 S.Ct. 1077, 1089, 87 L.Ed. 1458 (1943).

From the admissions, stipulations, and evidence offered by the shipper, much of it coming from employees or former employees of the carrier, we think it clear that a jury could permissibly determine the facts to be as related below.

On October 23, 1962, employees of the Carolina Bonded and Storage Company, general agent for the carrier, loaded the household property into a van at the shipper's home. The shipper placed his signature on several pages, with multiple carbons, containing an inventory of goods on the van.

A bill of lading was not signed by the shipper at his home. According to Larry Shealy, former Carolina Bonded dispatcher and warehouse manager who had handled arrangements for the shipment, this was because the shipper 'was not there to sign it.' However, sometime after the goods had been placed in the moving van and before October 25, the shipper signed the bill of lading, which was dated October 23, 1962.

The bill of lading and a company 'order for services,' carrying the date of October 22, 1962, were signed at the request of Shealy in his office after the goods were in transit. 4 The jury could permissibly conclude that the shipper did not examine the documents before signing them because he relied upon Shealy's statement to him that he was only resigning the inventory of goods shipped since his earlier signature had not been effective on the copies. The shipper testified that Shealy asked him to 'sign these inventory papers' and he signed and 'that's the only thing I have ever signed for him.'

On November 2, 1962, the shipper's goods were destroyed by fire due to the probable negligence of the carrier.

Both the bill of lading and the order for services contained notice to the effect that unless a different value is declared the shipper releases the value at thirty cents per pound for each article, and on neither was a different value declared. 5 The carrier's tariff, which had been filed with and approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission, contained the same terms.

Larry Shealy admitted that in discussing the carrier's services with the shipper he misinformed and mislead him into possibly believing that the thirty-cents-a-pound limitation did not apply to recovery for damages or loss of property caused by the fault of negligence of the carrier. 6

It is also admitted that the carrier never issued the bill of lading as required by

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49 U.S.C.A. Section 20(11), i.e., it never delivered the original or any copy by mail or otherwise to the shipper until after destruction of his property. 7

The jury could have found from the testimony of the district supervisor of the Interstate Commerce Commission that the carrier, contrary to the requirements of 49 U.S.C.A. Section 6(1), failed to post its tariff for public inspection in Carolina Bonded's office and also that the shipper had not been informed that he could have his household goods transported at a higher valuation for an increase in cast. 8

The carrier admits that in violation of 49 C.F.R. Section 176,12 it failed to give the shipper a copy of an information bulletin which is required by the Interstate Commerce Commission to be furnished prior to the time goods are moved. This bulletin contains an explanation of transportation rates and released values.

In short, all of the evidence with special emphasis on the admissions and testimony of persons associated with the carrier, tends to show that the carrier did nothing right and almost everything wrong in connection with the handling of this shipment-- except for getting the signature of the shipper on the order for services and on the bill of lading, which in the latter case admittedly occurred at Carolina Bonded's office after the shipment had begun its journey and under circumstances far from clear.

This case does not turn on the legal effect of a bill of lading. Indeed, because there was no delivery, there was, strictly speaking, no bill of lading. See, e.g., 13 C.J.S. Carriers § 125, at 239 (1939).

The resolution of this...

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