Constable v. National Steamship Co, No. 21

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBROWN
Citation154 U.S. 51,14 S.Ct. 1062,38 L.Ed. 903
Decision Date26 May 1894
Docket NumberNo. 21
PartiesCONSTABLE et al. v. NATIONAL STEAMSHIP CO

154 U.S. 51
14 S.Ct. 1062
38 L.Ed. 903
CONSTABLE et al.

v.

NATIONAL STEAMSHIP CO.

No. 21.
May 26, 1894.

Page 52

This was a libel in admiralty by the firm of Arnold, Constable & Co. against the National Steamship Company, owner of the British steamship Egypt, to recover the value of 36 cases of merchandise carried by this steamer from Liverpool to New York, delivered on the pier of the Inman Steamship Company on January 31, 1883, and upon the same night destroyed by fire through the alleged negligence of the respondent. The answer admitted most of the material

Page 53

allegations of the libel, but denied all charges of negligence, and also of liability for the loss of the merchandise. Upon a hearing upon pleadings and proofs in the district court, the libel was dismissed (29 Fed. 184), and, upon appeal to the circuit court, the decree was affirmed. Libelants thereupon appealed to this court.

The following is an abstract of the facts found by the circuit court, so far as the same are material to the questions involved:

'(2) The Egypt was one of a line of steamers owned by the respondent, and plying regularly between Liverpool and New York as common carriers. The steamers of this line arrived as often as from three to eight times per month.

'(3) Respondent has run a line of such steamers for over twenty years, and during that time has docked them at a dozen different piers in the city of New York. From 1872 to 1878 it leased the pier No. 36 (old No. 44), North river, and usually docked its vessels there. Subsequently it leased pier No. 39, North river, about six hundred feet north of pier No. 36, and has since usually docked its vessels there, and not elsewhere. The piers between Nos. 35 and 41, North river (excluding pier No. 37) were, in 1883, all used by regular English steamship lines. These lines usually dock at their own piers, but not always, and, in case of any emergency, dock elsewhere, and permit each other, when the necessity arises, to use the exclusive dock of each.

'(4) That said goods were shipped at the port of Liverpool on board the Egypt, and were consigned to the libelants at New York under a bill of lading, the material portions of which are cited in the opinion. (A copy is also given in the margin.1) The Egypt also carried as a considerable portion

Page 54

of her cargo goods shipped by the Inman Company, which had given respondent the option of discharging at its pier, No. 36.

Page 55

'(5) The Egypt arrived on January 31, 1883, and was entered at the customhouse at 1:45 o'clock in the afternoon.'

Page 56

'(7) For a month or more respondent had been blocked at its own pier, No. 39, in consequence of heavy cargoes, delays of its vessels by westerly winds and ice in the slips, and had been obliged in consequence to discharge two of its vesels at outside uncovered piers.

'(8) Respondent's manager had arranged to send the Holland, another ship of respondent's line, and due before the Egypt, to its own pier, No. 39, and to send the Egypt to the Inman pier, No. 36. This arrangement was carried out,—the Holland sent to No. 39, and the Egypt to No. 36, there being no room for her at No. 39.

'(9) Steamers of regular lines, on their arrival at New York, if their docks are blocked, are not kept in the stream longer than to enable them to get berthed elsewhere. If kept in the stream, the consignees make great complaint. It was more costly to dock the Egypt at No. 36, but this was done to secure to the consignees a more prompt discharge and delivery of their goods.

'(10) That the Egypt began at about 4:30 o'clock in the evening of said 31st of January, 1883, to discharge her cargo upon the dock, and the thirty-six cases of merchandise belonging to the libelants were landed and discharged there prior to the fire.

Page 57

'(11) Upon the entry at the customhouse of the Egypt, there was granted by the collector of customs a general order to unload the steamer, and to send packages to the public store. An application was also immediately made to the collector to allow the unpermitted cargo to remain upon the wharf for forty-eight hours from the time of the granting of the general order. This application was in the following form:

"To W. H. Robertson, Esq., Collector of Customs:

"Request is hereby made to allow the cargo of the steamer Egypt, Summer, from Liverpool, England, unladen, but not permitted to remain upon the wharf for forty-eight hours from the time of granting general order, at the sole risk of the owners of said steamer, who will pay to the consignee or owner the value of the such cargo, respectively, as may be stolen, burned, or otherwise lost, and who will also pay all duties which may be in any way lost by so remaining.

"F. J. W. Hurst, Owner,

"Per J. C. Ryor, Attorney.'

'Such application was in the form required by the collector, without which permit would not be granted, and the entire cargo would be sent to public store. A permit was granted by the collector upon this application. A special license was also granted to unload the steamship after sunset, and a bond in $20,000 was given for such license, as required by law.

'(12) The general order above stated, the special license, the applications and permits, and the agreements and engagements therein contained, were the usual and customary ones ordinarily made and granted in such cases, and were made under and by the authority in the bill of lading conferred upon the respondent and upon the collector of the port, and in accordance with the provisions of law and the regulations of the treasury department in that behalf.

'(14) Under these several orders and permits, a portion of the cargo of the Egypt, including libelants' merchandise, was discharged and landed upon the Inman dock, where the same was destroyed by fire about two o'clock the next morning. That said cargo, including said merchandise belonging to

Page 58

libelants, was, at the time of its destruction aforesaid, in the possession of the respondent, and had never been taken into the possession of the collector of the said port of New York. That said fire broke out without any imputed negligence, and that by it the steamer was also somewhat burned.

'(15) That between the arrival of the steamer and the destruction of the merchandise there was not sufficient time in which to enter libelants' goods at the customhouse, pay the duties thereon, and obtain the requisite permits for the removal of the same. That, in fact, no duties were paid upon libelants' goods, and no permits obtained prior to the destruction of the goods by fire. That said goods were, at the time of their destruction, 'unpermitted' goods.

'(16) That, upon obtaining the permits referred to, the respondent's customhouse broker caused a notice of the time and place of discharge to be posted on the bulletin board of the customhouse. It is usual to so post such notices. It is not usual to publish them in the newspapers.

'(17) No notice was ever sent to or received by the libelants, nor did they have any actual knowledge of the readiness to discharge, or of the time or place of discharge, of the Egypt, upon her arrival.

'(18) Libelants never knew that the merchandise had been landed and deposited upon the Inman dock, and never had an opportunity of removing such merchandise.'

The other facts, so far as they are material, are stated in the opinion of the court.

Upon such facts the circuit court found, as conclusions of law, that respondent had the right to dock and discharge the Egypt at the Inman pier; that it was exempt from liability for the goods destroyed by fire on such pier; and that there was, by reason of the application to the collector to allow the unpermitted cargo to remain on the wharf, no valid agreement or binding obligation to pay the libelants the value of the goods burned.

Joseph H. Choate, W. V. Rowe, and Treadwell Cleveland, for appellants.

Page 59

John Chetwood and Jas. C. Carter, for appellee.

Mr. Justice BROWN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.

This case involves the liability of a steamship company for the loss by fire of a consignment of goods unloaded without personal notice to the consignee upon the wharf of a company other than the one owning the vessel.

By the limited liability act (Rev. St. § 4282), no ship owner is liable to answer for the loss of any merchandise shipped upon his vessel by reason of any fire 'happening to or on board the vessel, unless such fire is caused by the design or neglect of such owner;' and in the case of The Scotland, 105 U. S. 24, the exemptions and limitations of this act were held to apply to foreign as well as domestic vessels. A similar exemption from fire happening without the 'fault or privity' of the owner is contained in the British merchants' shipping act of 1854, § 503. The bill of lading in this case also contains an exemption of liability from loss caused by fire 'before loading in the ship or after unloading.' There is no comma after the word 'loading' or 'ship,' but obviously it should be read as if there were. In view of the fact that under no aspect of the case would the owner of the vessel be liable for the consequences of any fire occurring on board of such vessel without his fault, and that an attempt is made in this case to impose the liability, not of a warehouseman, but of a common carrier and insurer against fire, after the contract of carriage had been fully performed, it would seem that such liability ought not to be raised out of the contract in this case except upon clear evidence, and for the most cogent reasons. The liability of the company for the goods while upon the wharf is a mere incident to its liability for them while upon the ship, and, if the liability is more extensive under the incidental contract of storage than it was under the principal contract of carriage, it is an exception to the...

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99 practice notes
  • Aetna Life Ins. Co. of Hartford, Conn. v. Maxwell, No. 4133.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • April 17, 1937
    ...two separate actions for the same debt. Second National Bank v. Grand Lodge, 98 U.S. 123, 25 L.Ed. 75;1 Constable v. National S. S. Co., 154 U.S. 51, 72, 73, 14 S.Ct. 1062, 38 L.Ed. 903; In re Gubelman (C.C. A.) 13 F.(2d) 730, 48 A.L.R. 1037; Tamiami Investment Co. v. Berk (C.C.A.) 57 F.(2d......
  • David Crystal, Inc. v. Cunard Steam-Ship Company
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • October 10, 1963
    ...segregated by the stevedore, and notice given to the consignee of the time and place of delivery. Cf. Constable v. National S. S. Co., 154 U.S. 51, 14 S.Ct. 1062, 38 L.Ed. 903 (1894); The Eddy, 5 Wall. 481, 18 L.Ed. 486 (1886); The Titania, 131 F. 229 (2 Cir. 1904). And thereafter, "until r......
  • State ex rel. Beck v. Associates Discount Corp., No. 34398
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • April 3, 1959
    ...Bank v. Bexten, 125 Neb. 310, 250 N.W. 84; State v. Fray, 214 Iowa 53, 241 N.W. 663, 81 A.L.R. 286; Constable v. National Steamship Co., 154 U.S. 51, 14 S.Ct. 1062, 38 L.Ed. 903; Cataneo v. United States, 4 Cir., 167 F.2d 820, 824. As stated in Cataneo v. United States, supra: 'When the sta......
  • May v. HAMBURG-AMERIKANISCHE P. AKTIEN-GESELLSCHAFT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • October 27, 1931
    ...to see how the facts of the case may be brought within the classical definition of deviation, Constable v. National Steamship Co. (1894) 154 U. S. 51, 66, 67, 14 S. Ct. 1062, 38 L. Ed. 903; Hostetter v. Park (1890) 137 U. S. 30, 40, 11 S. Ct. 1, 34 57 F.2d 271 L. Ed. 568; even though the de......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
99 cases
  • Aetna Life Ins. Co. of Hartford, Conn. v. Maxwell, No. 4133.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • April 17, 1937
    ...two separate actions for the same debt. Second National Bank v. Grand Lodge, 98 U.S. 123, 25 L.Ed. 75;1 Constable v. National S. S. Co., 154 U.S. 51, 72, 73, 14 S.Ct. 1062, 38 L.Ed. 903; In re Gubelman (C.C. A.) 13 F.(2d) 730, 48 A.L.R. 1037; Tamiami Investment Co. v. Berk (C.C.A.) 57 F.(2d......
  • David Crystal, Inc. v. Cunard Steam-Ship Company
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • October 10, 1963
    ...segregated by the stevedore, and notice given to the consignee of the time and place of delivery. Cf. Constable v. National S. S. Co., 154 U.S. 51, 14 S.Ct. 1062, 38 L.Ed. 903 (1894); The Eddy, 5 Wall. 481, 18 L.Ed. 486 (1886); The Titania, 131 F. 229 (2 Cir. 1904). And thereafter, "until r......
  • State ex rel. Beck v. Associates Discount Corp., No. 34398
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • April 3, 1959
    ...Bank v. Bexten, 125 Neb. 310, 250 N.W. 84; State v. Fray, 214 Iowa 53, 241 N.W. 663, 81 A.L.R. 286; Constable v. National Steamship Co., 154 U.S. 51, 14 S.Ct. 1062, 38 L.Ed. 903; Cataneo v. United States, 4 Cir., 167 F.2d 820, 824. As stated in Cataneo v. United States, supra: 'When the sta......
  • May v. HAMBURG-AMERIKANISCHE P. AKTIEN-GESELLSCHAFT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • October 27, 1931
    ...to see how the facts of the case may be brought within the classical definition of deviation, Constable v. National Steamship Co. (1894) 154 U. S. 51, 66, 67, 14 S. Ct. 1062, 38 L. Ed. 903; Hostetter v. Park (1890) 137 U. S. 30, 40, 11 S. Ct. 1, 34 57 F.2d 271 L. Ed. 568; even though the de......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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