The Caledonia
157 U.S. 124 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

The Caledonia, 157 U.S. 124 (1895)

The Caledonia

No. 107

Argued December 12-13, 1894

Decided March 11, 1895

157 U.S. 124


In every contract for the carriage of goods by sea, unless otherwise expressly stipulated, there is a warranty on the part of the shipowner that the ship is seaworthy at the time of beginning her voyage, and not merely that he does not know her to be unseaworthy, or that he has used his best efforts to make her seaworthy, and this being so, his undertaking is not discharged because the want of fitness is the result of latent defects. A bill of lading whereby a steamship owner undertakes to deliver live cattle at a foreign port, loss or damage from delays, steam boilers and machinery or defects therein excepted, does not exempt him from liability under such warranty for injury happening to the cattle through an unexpected prolongation of the voyage in consequence of a breaking of the shaft caused by a latent defect in it which existed before and at the commencement of the voyage.

Exceptions in a bill of lading are to be construed most strongly against the shipowner, and when they form, in the contract, part of long enumerations of excepted causes of damage, all the rest of which relate to matters subsequent to the beginning of the voyage, they must be treated as equally limited in their scope.

As between the shipper and the shipowner, the bill of lading only can be considered as the contract.

Page 157 U. S. 125

This was a libel in admiralty by a shipper of cattle against the steamship Caledonia to recover damages caused by the breaking of her shaft. The district court decreed in favor of libelant, 50 F. 567, and claimants appealed. The circuit court found the following facts and conclusions of law:

"This was a libel in admiralty in a cause of contract, civil and maritime, by a shipper of cattle against the steamship Caledonia, to recover damages caused by the breaking of her shaft."

"The Caledonia was one of the Anchor Line of transatlantic steamships, owned and employed by the claimants, Henderson Brothers, as common carriers. The plaintiff was a dealer in and exporter of cattle."

"The terms of the contract between the parties were as expressed in the following memorandum of agreement, made before the shipment of the cattle, and in the following bill of lading, signed at the time of shipment, and afterwards accepted by the libelant:"

"Memorandum of Agreement"

" Concluded at New York, the twenty-fifth day of May, 1885, between Messrs. Henderson Brothers, 7 Bowling Green, New York, agents of the steamer Caledonia, hereinafter described as 'the party of the first part,' and Mr. M. Goldsmith of New York, hereinafter described as 'the shipper,' of the second part."

" The agents of the steamer agree to let to said shipper suitable space, as under noted, for the transportation of live cattle, that is to say, on the steamship Caledonia, for about two hundred and seventy-five to three hundred head of cattle on and under decks. Steamer expected to sail from Boston for London about eleventh of June. The agents agree to fit the stalls in the style customary at the port of Boston, to the satisfaction of inspectors of Boston insurance companies and the shipper, who will assume all responsibility of same, and for various appliances of ventilation, after shipment of the cattle, and the steamer Caledonia undertakes to supply sufficient good condensed water for the use of the animals during

Page 157 U. S. 126

the voyage. All water casks, buckets, hose, and similar appliances must be put on board by shipper of the cattle."

" A reasonable supply of fodder for the animals will be carried by the steamship Caledonia free of freight, but freight, if demanded, shall be payable on any unusual excess of fodder landed at port of destination. Hay and straw to be in compressed bales."

" The steamer Caledonia will also furnish free steerage passage for attendants (not exceeding one man to every thirty cattle) over and return, providing them with the necessary utensils for the voyage."

" The agents of the steamer agree to notify the said shipper at least six days in advance of the intended departure of the steamship, and, twelve hours prior to sailing, of the day and hour. In event of shipper's failing to deliver the cattle to steamship within twenty-four hours after expiry of due notice as aforementioned, steamer is to have liberty to sail, and freight is to be paid in full by the party of the second part."

" The steamer Caledonia agrees to deliver the cattle at Deptford, and the shipper agrees to bear tonnage, dock, or shed dues when incurred. The cattle are to be delivered and received from steamship's decks immediately on arrival at the port of destination."

" The shipper agrees to ship all the cattle the steamship can carry as above mentioned, paying freight on same at the rate of forty-five shillings British sterling per bullock for all cattle shipped."

" The shipper agrees to prepay freight on the above-mentioned shipments in current funds at first-class bankers' selling rate for sight exchange, on the number of cattle shipped at Boston, vessel lost or not lost, and irrespective of the number landed at the port of destination, and the shipper assumes all risk of mortality or accident, however caused, throughout the voyage."

" The shipper agrees to deliver the cattle on the date and hour ordered by the agents of the steamer, or pay demurrage of the steamship for all, or any detention incurred by his failure to do so. "

Page 157 U. S. 127

" In case of nonarrival of vessel in time to sail from Boston on or before 18th June, shipper has option of cancellation. Any dispute arising on this contract to be settled by arbitration in the usual way in Boston."

"Henderson Brothers"

"Cattle Bill of Lading"

" Shipped alive, by M. Goldsmith, and at shipper's risk, in and upon the steamship called the Caledonia, now lying in the port of Boston and bound for London, two hundred and seventy-four head live cattle, to be delivered from the ship's deck at the aforesaid port of London, the act of God, the Queen's enemies, pirates, restraint of princes and rulers, perils of the seas, rivers, navigation and land transit, of whatever nature or kind, restrictions at port of discharge, loss or damage from delays, collision, straining, explosion, heat, fire, steam boilers, and machinery, or defects therein, transshipment, escape, accidents, suffocation, mortality, disease or deterioration in value, negligence, default, or error in judgment of pilots, master, mariners, engineers, stevedores, or any other person in the employ of the steamship or of the owners or their agents, excepted, with liberty to sail with or without pilots, to tow and assist vessels in all situations, to call at any port or ports to receive fuel, load or discharge cargo, or for any other purpose, and, in the event of the steamship's putting back to Boston or into any other port or being prevented from any cause from proceeding in the ordinary course of her voyage, to transship by any other steamer unto order or to his or their assigns."

" Freight for the said stock to be paid without any allowance of credit or discount at the rate of

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