VENIZELOS, SA v. Chase Manhattan Bank

Decision Date29 April 1970
Docket NumberNo. 611,Docket 33552.,611
Citation425 F.2d 461
PartiesVENIZELOS, S.A., Appellant, v. CHASE MANHATTAN BANK, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Joseph Cardillo, Jr., New York City (Cardillo & Corbett, New York City, Christophil B. Costas, New York City, of counsel), for appellant.

Andrew J. Connick, New York City (Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, New York City, Ellis W. McCracken, Jr., New York City, of counsel), for appellee.

Before SMITH, KAUFMAN and HAYS, Circuit Judges.

J. JOSEPH SMITH, Circuit Judge:

Venizelos, S.A. hereinafter "Venizelos" appeals the grant of a motion for summary judgment in favor of appellee Chase Manhattan Bank hereinafter "Chase" on the three claims asserted by appellant in its complaint and the denial of appellant's cross-motion for summary judgment by the District Court for the Southern District of New York, David N. Edelstein, Judge. We find error in the grant of summary judgment against the claims in the first two causes of action, reverse and grant summary judgment to appellant for the sums sought in those two claims; however, we find no error in the order granting summary judgment to appellee on the third cause of action and affirm as to it.

All three claims arose out of a charter party by Perfiles LaPaz, S.A. de C.V. hereinafter "Perfiles" and a letter of credit confirmed by Chase in regard to such charter.

On June 10, 1965 Venizelos, as agents for the owners of the S.S. "Anastassis" entered into a charter party with Perfiles; the charter was to be for five voyages by the charterer (Perfiles), carrying scrap metal cargoes from a United States port to Mexico. The contract contemplated Perfiles' use of the vessel "Anastassis" and described the vessel as a standard American built Liberty vessel. The "Anastassis" and other similar vessels typically carry about 9500 deadweight tons of cargo. One of the provisions of the charter party was that Perfiles was to pay Venizelos by means of a revolving letter of credit which was to be maintained at Venizelos' bank in New York (the Atlantic Bank). The minimum in this letter of credit was to equal the minimum freight for two voyages and upon payment of one freight, Perfiles was to replenish the funds paid before it could reload the vessel for the next voyage. The contract further provided that the letter of credit would include an additional amount of $5,000 per voyage to cover Perfiles' liability for stevedore damages and/or demurrage.

Toward compliance with these requirements, Perfiles caused the Banco Azteca, S.A. hereinafter "Banco" of Mexico to open an irrevocable credit in a sum not exceeding $82,830, and on August 16, 1965, Chase issued its confirmation of the letter of credit in favor of Universal Shipping Co., Inc. hereinafter "Universal", the United States agent for Venizelos. Such action was taken by Chase upon request of Banco, a correspondent bank of Chase. The confirmed letter of credit stated, inter alia, that it was for a sum not exceeding $82,830 payable against presentation of sight drafts accompanied by proper documents, covering ocean freight for the shipment of about 9690 metric tons of scrap; that partial shipments were not permitted; and that its correspondent (Banco) advised that, out of the amount of the credit, $10,000 was to be earmarked for demurrage and $5,000 for indemnity damages. On August 24, Chase advised Venizelos that the credit had been transferred to Venizelos as the new beneficiary and that the original letter of credit had been endorsed accordingly.

The "Anastassis" sailed from Philadelphia for Mexico for her first (and only) voyage under this charter party on September 3, 1965 with what was estimated to be 9915.7 metric tons of scrap; on the same day, the letter of credit was amended to increase the credit by $47,795 to $130,625 to cover "* * * transport expenses, 19,300 tons approximately of Number 1 Heavy Melting Liberty Ship Scrap * * *" to be available with presentation of proper documents including a "* * * copy of a Charter Party clean onboard Bill of Lading S/S Anastassis. * * *" The amendment further stated that the total amount included $10,000 to guarantee damage to the steamer arising from unloading and demurrage; the amendment provided that all other conditions were to remain unchanged. There is no question that on the voyage made, the time consumed in discharging the cargo was in excess of the time allowed under the charter party (discharging began September 15 and was not completed until October 24, 1965) with the result that the owners were entitled to demurrage. In addition the vessel sustained damage during the loading and discharging of the cargo.

Twelve days after the "Anastassis" sailed, Chase paid $61,973.21 to Venizelos. This followed Venizelos' presentation of a sight draft for that amount based on an estimated 9915.7 metric tons at $6.25 per metric ton accompanied by an invoice and copies of bills of lading. When presented with the documents, Chase cabled Banco and informed it of documents being presented "* * * covering partial shipment 9915 M/T." of cargo; in response Banco cabled Chase and advised, regarding this particular letter of credit, "* * * we agree with documents presented. * * *" Consequently, Chase paid Venizelos the $61,973.21. Two months later, Venizelos presented sight drafts for $624.29 and $10,000. The $624.29 represented the difference between the actual tonnage (as shown by the "Weight Return," certificate of inspection and invoice submitted by Venizelos) of 10015.6 metric tons and the previously estimated tonnage of 9915.7 metric tons; this difference of 99.9 metric tons was charged at the rate of $6.25 per metric ton. The draft for $10,000 was submitted with a Demurrage Statement showing demurrage due of $39,691.67 for the delay in unloading the vessel, a statement of facts for Coatzacoalcos, the port of discharge signed by the port captain, the ship's master and charterer's agent, a lay time statement and a port log; an invoice was also presented to Chase for $10,000 to cover stevedore damages, together with a statement by a qualified surveyor as prescribed by the amendment to the letter of credit. However, since the letter of credit allowed a maximum amount of $10,000 for demurrage and stevedore damage, that was the amount of the draft presented. Chase refused to honor these two drafts, asserting that Venizelos had violated the terms of the letter of credit insofar as Venizelos had conveyed a partial shipment of 10,015 metric tons rather than the 19,300 tons provided for in the letter of credit and that under the letter's terms, payment was not permitted for partial shipments. The court below dismissed the two causes of action (for the $624.29 and $10,000), granting summary judgment to Chase.

In September, 1966, Venizelos also obtained an arbitration award against Perfiles for $151,332.25; this award was confirmed by the district court, and judgment was entered thereon on January 11, 1967. Later in January, Venizelos caused a writ of execution to be issued directing the marshal to levy against all property and funds of Perfiles held by Chase under the letter of credit; the remaining sum of the letter of credit confirmed by Chase ($68,651.79) was demanded by Venizelos. However, Chase denied that it had any attachable property of Perfiles and refused to deliver to the marshal the amount sought. The district court also granted summary judgment for Chase on this claim, the basis for the third cause of action. Jurisdiction for all claims was based on diversity of citizenship.

I. The Claims for $624.29 and $10,000

The letter of credit involved was issued and confirmed by Chase with Venizelos, the amended beneficiary, for the account of Perfiles, at the request of Banco, Perfiles' bank. The primary purpose of such a letter of credit is to provide an assurance to the selling party (here the ship owner's agent Venizelos) of prompt payment against documents, i. e., to provide a method of payment, through banking channels, which defines the terms and conditions upon which and only upon which the payment will be made and which, within the strict limits of those terms and conditions, engages the full primary responsibility of the bank to make the payment. Ordinarily there are three separate and distinct contracts involved in a letter of credit transaction; the contract of the bank with its customer whereby it agrees to issue the letter of credit, the letter of credit itself and the contract of sale between the buyer who is also the person who procured the bank to issue the letter of credit and the seller who accepts and acts under the letter of credit by drawing drafts thereunder. Except insofar as its terms are expressly incorporated therein, a bank's contract with its customer for a letter of credit in favor of a beneficiary is separate and distinct from the charter party or other contract of sale between the customer and the seller; the letter of credit constitutes the sole contract of the bank with the seller and is completely independent of the other contracts. Kingdom of Sweden v. New York Trust Co., 197 Misc. 431, 96 N.Y.S.2d 779 (1949). See Gilmore and Black, The...

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