Deaver-Jeter Co. v. Southern Ry. Co.

Decision Date06 June 1912
Citation74 S.E. 1071,91 S.C. 503
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Appeal from Common Pleas Circuit Court of Union County; Ernest Gary Judge.

Action by the Deaver-Jeter Company against the Southern Railway Company. From an order of nonsuit, plaintiff appeals. Reversed and remanded.

John K Hamblin and Wallace & Barron, of Union, for appellant. Sanders & De Pass, of Spartanburg, for respondent.


This is an appeal from an order of nonsuit. In August, 1908, the Fechheimer-Keifer Company, of Cincinnati, delivered to the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company a case of clothing for transportation and delivery to plaintiff at Carlisle S.C. The goods never reached destination. Plaintiff made inquiry for them of defendant's agent at Carlisle, and under date of September 14, 1908, he wrote plaintiff: "I am informed by our route agent, Mr. W. C. Wall, that a case of clothing consigned to you all shipped from Cincinnati Ohio, was destroyed by fire at Hamburg, S. C., on account of high water and an act of God." There was testimony that Hamburg is on defendant's road, and that the fire was caused by the high water of the Savannah river, during the freshet of August, 1908, getting into a car load of quicklime. In October, 1910, plaintiff filed with defendant's agent, at Carlisle, a claim for the value of the goods, and in December, 1910, this action was brought to recover the value of the goods and the statutory penalty for failing to pay the claim therefor.

The nonsuit was granted upon two grounds: (1) Because there was no evidence that defendant ever received the goods or lost them. (2) Because the claim therefor was not filed within the time stipulated in the bill of lading.

We think the letter of defendant's agent at Carlisle was competent evidence that defendant had received the goods, and that they were destroyed while in its possession. If defendant received the goods, it was its duty to deliver them to plaintiff, or inform plaintiff what had become of them. It could discharge this duty only through its agents. Therefore the agent at Carlisle was acting within the scope of his duty and authority when he undertook to find out whether defendant had received the goods, and, if so, what had become of them, and in giving plaintiff the information.

The bill of lading contains a stipulation that "claims for loss or damage must be made in writing to the agent at point of delivery promptly after arrival of the property, and if delayed for more than thirty days after delivery of the property, or after due time for the delivery thereof, no carriers hereunder shall be liable in any event." Such a stipulation, where the time limit is reasonable, is usually sustained by the courts. 5 A. & E. Enc. L. (2d Ed.) 321; 6 Cyc. 505. The principal ground upon which such a stipulation is held to be reasonable and valid is that carriers usually handle great numbers of shipments, which are liable, for various reasons, to be lost or misplaced or injured in transporting them; and, if part of a...

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