Martinsburg Co v. March

Decision Date04 May 1885
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Wayne MacVeagh, for plaintiff in error.

No appearance for defendant in error.


This case is within the principles announced in Kihlberg v. U. S. 97 U. S. 398, and Sweeney v. U. S. 109 U. S. 618, S. C. 3 SUP. CT. REP. 344. Kihlberg sued the United States upon a contract for the transportation of military, Indian, and government stores and supplies from points on the Kansas Pacific Rail way to posts and stations in certain states and territories. The contract provided for payment for transportation 'in all cases according to the distance from the place of departure to that of delivery, the distance to be ascertained and fixed by the chief quarter-master of the district of New Mexico, and in no case to exceed the distance by the usual and customary route.' One of the issues in that case was as to the authority of that officer to fix, conclusively for the parties, the distances which should govern in the settlement of the contractor's accounts for transportation. There was neither allegation nor proof of fraud or bad faith upon the part of that officer in his discharge of the duty imposed upon him by the mutual assent of the parties. This court said: 'In the absence of fraud, or such gross mistake as would necessarily imply bad faith, or a failure to exercise an honest judgment, his action in the premises is conclusive upon the appellant as well as upon the government.' This principle was affirmed and applied in Sweeney's Case, in which he sought to recover from the United States the price of a wall built by him around a national cemetery. The contract provided that the wall should be received, and become the property of the United States, after an officer or civil engineer, to be designated by the government to inspect the work, should certify that it was in all respects such as the contractor agreed to construct. The officer designated for that purpose refused to so certify, on the ground that neither the material nor the workmanship was such as the contract required. As the officer exercised an honest judgment in making his inspections, and as there was on his part neither fraud, nor such gross mistake as implied bad faith, it was adjudged that the contractor had no cause of action on the contract against the United States.

Those decisions control the determination of the claim arising out of the contract here in suit, whereby the defendant in error, who was plaintiff below, covenanted and agreed that he would furnish all the material required,—which should be sound, durable, and of good quality, and approved by the company's chief engineer,—and perform all the labor necessary to construct and finish, in every respect, in the most substantial and workman-like manner, the grading and masonry of a certain section of the Martinsburg & Potomac Railroad.

The contract provides that, to prevent all disputes, the engineer of the company 'shall, in all cases, determine' the quantity of the several kinds of work to be paid for under the contract, and the amount of compensation that the appellee should earn at the rates therein specified; that he 'shall, in all cases,' decide every question which can or may arise relative to the execution of the contract, and 'his estimate shall be final and conclusive;' that in order to enable the contractor to prosecute the work advantageously, the engineer 'shall make an estimate from time to time, not oftener than once per month, as the work progresses, of the work done,' for which the company 'will pay in current money within twenty per cent. of the amount of said estimate on presentation;' that, in calculating the quantity of masonry, walling, and excavation, the most rigid geometrical rules should be applied, any custom to the contrary notwithstanding; and that 'whenever this contract shall be wholly completed on the part of the said contractor, and the said engineer shall have certified the same, they [the company] will pay for said work' the prices in the contract named. These stipulations were emphasized by this additional provision in the agreement: 'And it is further agreed...

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226 cases
  • Phillips v. Sipsey Coal Mining Co.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • May 10, 1928
    ...... that to C.L. Phillips and that of the attempted transfer of. the Phillips-Dilworth lease to C.L. Phillips and Mary. Wood--March 28, 1921. . . The. Sipsey Coal Mining Company and Mary Wood answer the. cross-bill, denying and taking issue on the foregoing. ......
  • McCullough v. Clinch-Mitchell Const. Co.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • May 22, 1934
    ...Ed. 917; Hamilton v. Liverpool & L. & G. Insurance Co., 136 U. S. 242, 256, 10 S. Ct. 945, 34 L. Ed. 419; Martinsburg & P. R. Co. v. March, 114 U. S. 549, 5 S. Ct. 1035, 29 L. Ed. 255; Kihlberg v. United States, 97 U. S. 398, 401, 402, 24 L. Ed. 1106; Humaston v. American Telegraph Co., 20 ......
  • Davis Cattle Co., Inc. v. Great Western Sugar Company
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Colorado
    • May 6, 1975
    ...imply bad faith, or a failure to exercise an honest judgment. (citing many cases, including, Martinsburg & Potomac R. R. Co. v. March, 114 U.S. 549, 5 S.Ct. 1035, 29 L.Ed. 255, Sweeney v. United States, 109 U.S. 618, 3 S.Ct. 344, 27 L.Ed. 1053, Chicago & Santa Fe R. R. Co. v. Price, 138 U.S......
  • State Highway Dep't v. Macdougald Const. Co
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • October 12, 1939
    ...Jur. 961, § 137; 6 C.J. 234-5, 246-256, §§ 85, 87, 88, 103-108. On the general subject see Martinsburg & Potomac Railroad Co. v. March, 114 U.S. 549, 5 S.Ct. 1035, 29 L.Ed. 255; Shriner v. Craft, 166 Ala. 146, 51 So. 884, 28 L.R.A., N.S, 450, 139 Am.St.Rep. 19; Empson Packing Co. v. Clawson......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The Construction Industry in the U.S. Supreme Court: Part 1, Contract Law
    • United States
    • ABA General Library The Construction Lawyer No. 41-2, April 2021
    • April 1, 2021
    ...L. BRUNER & PATRICK J. O’CONNOR JR., BRUNER & O’CONNOR ON CONSTRUCTION LAW §§ 19:26–29 (Westlaw 2020). 27. Clephane , 110 U.S. at 213. 28. 114 U.S. 549 (1885). 29. Id. at 553. 30. 97 U.S. 398 (1878). 31. Id. at 401. 32. Id. at 402. 33. Sweeney v. United States, 109 U.S. 618 (1883). 34. Id. ......

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