Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


decided: December 19, 1887.



Author: Field

[ 123 U.S. Page 733]

 MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

There is no doubt of the power of the Circuit Court to direct a verdict for the plaintiff upon the evidence presented in a cause, where it is clear that he is entitled to recover, and no matter affecting his claim is left in doubt to be determined by the jury. Such a direction is eminently proper, when it would be the duty of the court to set aside a different verdict, if one were rendered. It would be an idle proceeding to submit the evidence to the jury, when they could justly find only in one way. Anderson County Commissioners v. Beal, 113 U.S. 227, 241.

Upon the evidence presented, and there was no conflict in it, the law was with the plaintiff. The duty of a common carrier is not merely to carry safely the goods entrusted to him,

[ 123 U.S. Page 734]

     but also to deliver them to the party designated by the terms of the shipment, or to his order, at the place of destination. There are no conditions which would release him from this duty, except such as would also release him from the safe carriage of the goods. The undertaking of the carrier to transport goods necessarily includes the duty of delivering them. A railroad company, it is true, is not a carrier of live stock with the same responsibilities which attend it as a carrier of goods. The nature of the property, the inherent difficulties of its safe transportation, and the necessity of furnishing to the animals food and water, light and air, and protecting them from injuring each other, impose duties in many respects widely different from those devolving upon a mere carrier of goods. The most scrupulous care in the performance of his duties will not always secure the carrier from loss. But notwithstanding this difference in duties and responsibilities, the railroad company, when it undertakes generally to carry such freight, becomes subject, under similar conditions, to the same obligations, so far as the delivery of the animals which are safely transported is concerned, as in the case of goods. They are to be delivered at the place of destination to the party designated to receive them if he presents himself, or can with reasonable efforts be found, or to his order. No obligation of the carrier, whether the freight consists of goods or of livestock, is more strictly enforced. Forbes v. Boston & Lowell Railroad Co., 133 Mass. 154; McEntee v. New Jersey Steamboat Co., 45 N.Y. 34.

If the consignee is absent from the place of destination, or cannot, after reasonable inquiries, be found, and no one appears to represent him, the carrier may place the goods in a warehouse or store with a responsible person to be kept on account of and at the expense of the owner. He cannot release himself from responsibility by abandoning the goods or turning them over to one not entitled to receive them. Fisk v. Newton, 1 Denio, 45. If the freight consist, as in this case, of live-stock, the carrier will not, under the circumstances mentioned, that is, when the consignee is absent or cannot after reasonable inquiries be found, and no one appears

[ 123 U.S. Page 735]

     to represent him, relieve himself from responsibility by turning the animals loose. He must place them in some suitable quarters where they can be properly fed and sheltered, under the charge of a competent person as his agent, or for account and at the expense of the owner. Turning them loose without a keeper or delivering them to one not entitled to receive them would equally constitute a breach of duty for which he could be held accountable. These principles are firmly established by the adjudged cases, and rest upon obvious grounds of justice. Angell on Carriers, § 291.

The railroad company, defendant below, should, therefore, have given necessary instructions to the drove-yard company, which was its agent for the custody and care of the cattle, respecting their delivery -- that it should be made only upon the order of the consignee, who was also the owner and shipper. The joint way-bills given by the two companies at Waverly, equally with the original receipts given at Chicago, disclosed his name. Those joint way-bills were for the guidance of, and were used by, the conductors of both companies.

In the case of The Thames, 14 Wall. 98, it appeared that the purchaser of cotton at Savannah delivered it there to a vessel to be carried to New York, taking bills of lading, in which it was stated that the cotton was shipped by one Gilbert Van Pelt, and was to be delivered "unto order or to his or their assigns." Van Pelt was a member of a firm in New York, for which he purchased the cotton. Against the shipment he drew a draft on his firm, payable fifteen days after sight, and delivered it, with the bills of lading, to parties who obtained a discount of the draft from a bank in Atlanta. The draft and bills were at once forwarded to New York to an agent of the bank, to procure their acceptance by the firm. Before the draft become due the vessel arrived at New York and gave notice to the firm of the arrival of the cotton. That vessel had previously brought cotton in the same way for the firm, and the master of the vessel, knowing that the cotton was intended for the firm, and having no information from the bank's agent, or from any other source, of any other consignee or claimant, delivered to it the cotton, taking its receipt.

[ 123 U.S. Page 736]

     When the draft became due, two weeks afterwards, and was not paid, the cotton was demanded of the owner of the vessel by the bank's agent. In the action which followed it was contended by the owner that the delivery was justified, and that the vessel had discharged its obligation, but this court held that, though the delivery had been made in ignorance of any outstanding claim to the cotton, it was, nevertheless, 2 breach of the contract of affreightment, and that the agent of the bank could libel the vessel, which was bound for the proper delivery of the property, for the loss sustained. And the court said: "By issuing bills of lading for the cotton, stipulating for a delivery to order, the ship became bound to deliver it to no one who had not the order of the shipper, and this obligation was disregarded instantly on the arrival of the ship. And it is no excuse for a delivery to the wrong persons that the endorsee of the bills of lading was unknown, if indeed he was, and that notice of the arrival of the cotton could not be given. Diligent inquiry for the consignee, at least, was a duty, and no inquiry was made. Vant of notice is excused when the consignee is unknown, or is absent, or cannot be found after diligent search. And if, after inquiry, the consignee or the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.