Queen of the Pacific - 180 U.S. 49 (1901)
U.S. Supreme Court
Queen of the Pacific, 180 U.S. 49 (1901)
Queen of the Pacific
Argued and submitted December 14, 1900
Decided January 7, 1901.
180 U.S. 49
A stipulation in a bill of lading that all claims against a steamship company, or any of the stockholders of the company, for damage to merchandise must be presented to the company within thirty days from the date of the bill of lading applies though the suit be in rem against the steamship carrying the property covered by the bill of lading.
In the view of the facts that the loss occurred the day after the bill of lading was signed and the shippers were notified of such loss within three days thereafter, the stipulation was a reasonable one, and a failure to present the claim within the time limited was held a bar to recovery against the company in personam or against the ship in rem.
The reasonableness of such notice depends upon the length of the voyage, the time at which the loss occurred, and all the other circumstances of the case.
This was a joint libel by the Bancroft Whitney Company, a California corporation, and the firm of Hellman, Haas & Company, against the steamship Queen of the Pacific, owned by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, to recover damages to certain miscellaneous merchandise shipped April 29, 1888, at San Francisco, to consignees at San Pedro, in the State of California.
The contracts of affreightment were evidenced by bills of lading in the usual form and with the usual exception of perils of the sea, and, amongst others, with the following stipulation:
"It is expressly agreed that all claims against the P.C.S.S. Co., or any of the stockholders of said company, for damage to or loss of any of the within merchandise, must be presented to the company within thirty days from date hereof, and that, after thirty days from date hereof no action, suit, or proceeding in any court of justice shall be brought against said P.C.S.S. Co. or any of the stockholders thereof for any damage to or loss of said merchandise, and the lapse of said thirty days shall be deemed a conclusive bar and release of all right to recover against said company, or any of the stockholders thereof, for any such damage or loss."
The steamship left San Francisco about two o'clock in the afternoon of April 29, 1888, bound for the port of San Diego and intermediate ports, having on board a cargo of general merchandise and upwards of two hundred persons. A little more than twelve hours after she sailed, and about half-past two o'clock in the morning of the 30th, the steamer was seen to have sprung a leak and to be taking in water through a watertight compartment known as the starboard alleyway. At this time, she had a list of from five to eight degrees to starboard which, when she reached Port Harford, four or five hours afterwards, had increased to an angle of thirty degrees. When about two hundred and fifty or three hundred yards from the wharf where she usually made her landing, she took the bottom in about twenty-three feet of water, and, in about twenty minutes thereafter, filled, sank, and lay in a helpless condition for three or four days. A diver procured for that purpose, after repeated efforts, found the leak and stopped it, whereupon the water was pumped out of the vessel, and she was towed to San Francisco, where she arrived the next day. Her cargo was all discharged upon the wharf, and delivery thereof tendered and accepted by the several owners, who gave the usual average bonds. On May 19, that portion of the cargo belonging to Hellman, Haas & Company was sold by them at public auction. No claim for damage to the merchandise was made
upon the owners of the Queen prior to the sale, nor were they invited to such sale. In short, nothing further appears to have been done for nearly four years, though the steamer was constantly running to and from San Francisco, when, on April 28, 1892, this libel was filed. Exceptions to the libel were interposed and overruled (61 F. 213), and the case subsequently went to a hearing upon libel, answers, and testimony, and resulted in a decree for the libellants for the full amount of their claim (78 F. 155), which was affirmed by the court of appeals. 94 F. 180. Whereupon this writ of certiorari was granted.