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ST. LOUIS v. KNIGHT.

decided: May 23, 1887.

ST. LOUIS, IRON MOUNTAIN AND SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY
v.
KNIGHT.



ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS.

Author: Matthews

[ 122 U.S. Page 81]

 MR. JUSTICE MATTHEWS delivered the opinion of the court.

This is an action of assumpsit brought by the defendants in error against the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway Company in the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois, and removed into the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois by the defendant below, the parties being citizens of different states. The declaration set out several similar causes of action in different counts against the railway company as a common carrier, in one of which it was alleged that the defendant, having received from one G. T. Potter a large number of bales of cotton, described in a certain bill of lading acknowledging receipt thereof, thereby agreed safely to carry the same from Texarkana, in the state of Arkansas, to St. Louis, in the state of Missouri, and thence to Woonsocket, in the state of Rhode Island; and avers that, in violation of its promise and duty, and by reason of its negligence, the said goods became and were wholly lost. The plaintiffs below sued as purchasers of the cotton from Potter and assignees of the bills of lading. The bills of lading sued upon were similar in their tenor, except as to the description of the articles named therein, and commenced as follows: "Received from G. T. Potter the following packages, contents unknown, in apparent good order, marked and numbered as

[ 122 U.S. Page 82]

     per margin, to be transported from Texarkana, Ark., to St. Louis, and delivered to the consignee or a connecting common carrier." A specimen of what was contained on the margin is as follows:

"Marked.

List of articles.

Weight.

"[P P] Seventy-four bales cotton, adv. ch'g's $111.00 35, 964

"Order shipper notify --

"B.B. and R. KNIGHT,

"Providence, R.I.

"Deliver cotton Woonsocket, R.I."

Some of the bills of lading specified that the goods were to be transported from Texarkana to Providence, R.I., to be forwarded from St. Louis to destination. The whole number of bales in controversy is 525.

To the declaration the defendant filed a plea of the general issue, which was not verified.

The ground of the complaint on the part of the plaintiffs was, not that they did not receive the whole number of bales called for by the bills of lading, but that, as to the 525 bales in controversy, they were not of the grade and quality designated by the marks contained in the bills of lading. By reason of this difference in quality, on the arrival of the cotton at destination, the plaintiffs refused to receive the same, and, after notice to the defendant, caused the same to be sold for its account. The amount claimed was the loss thereby incurred.

The cause was tried by a jury, and a verdict and judgment rendered for the plaintiffs for $11,808.51. A bill of exceptions, duly taken, sets out the entire evidence given on the trial, and the charge of the court to the jury, with the exceptions taken by the plaintiff in error.

The court below in its charge to the jury gave in outline a statement of the main features of the case sufficient for present purposes, as follows:

"The proof tends to show that Potter was a cotton broker at Texarkana, Arkansas, in the fall of 1879 and winter following; that he bought most of his cotton at points in Texas on

[ 122 U.S. Page 83]

     the lines of railroads running south and southwest and west from Texarkana, and that it was brought to Texarkana by these railroads and there delivered upon the platform of what is known in the testimony as the cotton compress company; that this compress company was a corporation whose business it was to compress cotton, and that all the cotton bought by Potter and delivered at Texarkana was to be there compressed before it was shipped East and North by the defendant. This compress company had a large warehouse, where cotton was stored until it could be compressed and made ready for shipment.

"The testimony tends to show the course of business to have been this: Cotton was bought by Potter and delivered into the compress house. It was there weighed, classed, or graded by Potter, and marks put upon each bale indicating the grade or quality of the cotton and the lot to which it belonged. When Potter had so weighed, graded, and marked a number of bales, he made out a bill of lading, describing certain bales of cotton by the marks on the bales; had the superintendent of the compress company warehouse certify to the fact that the cotton called for by these bills of lading was in the warehouse, and the bills of lading thus certified to by the letters 'O K' and the signature of Martin, the superintendent of the compress warehouse, were signed by O'Connor, the freight agent of the defendant at Texarkana. Potter then drew drafts on the persons to whom he had sold cotton of the grade called for by these bills of lading, attached these bills of lading to the drafts, and some local bank at Texarkana or some of the adjacent towns or cities cashed these drafts, and they went forward to some correspondent of such bank for collection, and in due course of mail and long before the actual arrival of the cotton the drafts were paid; and this seems, from the proof, to have been the course of business between the plaintiffs and Potter.

"There is also testimony in the case, given by Potter himself, which tends to show that the bills of lading were issued upon cotton before it had been received into the warehouse upon ...


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