Canter v. American Insurance Company
28 U.S. 307 (1830)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Canter v. American Insurance Company, 28 U.S. 3 Pet. 307 307 (1830)

Canter v. American Insurance and Ocean Insurance Company of New York

28 U.S. (3 Pet.) 307

Syllabus

The libellants, in their original libel in the District Court of the United States for the District of South Carolina, prayed that certain bales of cotton might be decreed to them with damages and costs. Canter, who also claimed the cotton, prayed the court for restitution, with damages and costs. The district court decreed restitution of part of the cotton to the libellants, and dismissed the libel without any award of damages on either side. Both parties appealed from this decree to the circuit court, where the decree of the district court was reversed and restitution of all the cotton was decreed to Canter with costs, without any award of damages or any express reservation of that question in the decree. From this decree the libellants in the district

court appealed to this Court; no appeal was entered by Canter. Held that the question of a claim of damages by Canter is not open before this Court. The decree of restitution, without any allowance of damages, was a virtual denial of them, and a final decree upon Canter's claim of damages. It was his duty, at that time, to have filed a, cross-appeal if he meant to rely on a claim to damages, and not having done so, it was a submission to the decree of restitution and costs only.

The counsel fees allowed as expenses attending the prosecution of an appeal to the circuit court and to the Supreme Court in an admiralty case.

This is not a proper case for the award of damages. The proceedings of the libellants were in the ordinary course to vindicate a supposed legal title. There is no pretense to say that the suit was instituted without probable cause or was conducted in a malicious or oppressive manner. The libellants had a right to submit their title to the decision of a judicial tribunal in any legal mode which promised them an effectual and speedy redress. Where parties litigate in the admiralty and there was a probable ground for the suit or defense, the Court considers the only compensation which the successful party is entitled to is a compensation in costs and expenses. If the party has suffered any loss beyond these, it is damnum absque injuria.

It is of great importance to the due administration of justice and in furtherance of the manifest intention of the legislature in giving appellate jurisdiction to this Court upon final decrees only, that causes should not come up here in fragments or successive appeals. It would occasion very great delays and oppressive expenses.

The settled practice of this Court is that whenever damages are claimed by the libellant or the claimant in the original proceedings, if a decree of restitution and costs only passes, it is a virtual denial of damages, and the party will be deemed to have waived the claim for damages unless he then interposes an appeal or cross-appeal to sustain that claim.

Costs and expenses are not matters positively limited by law, but are allowed in the exercise of a sound discretion of the court, and no appeal lies from a mere decree respecting costs and expenses.

Page 28 U. S. 308

This case was heard at January term, 1828, upon questions submitted to the Court, on an appeal from the Circuit Court of the District of South Carolina. 26 U. S. 1 Pet. 511. The Court then decided in favor of the claimant, and directed restitution of the cotton, which was the subject of the controversy between the parties, having affirmed the decree of the Circuit Court of South Carolina. By the mandate to the circuit court it was ordered "that such execution and proceedings be had as according to right and justice and according to the laws of the United States ought to be had." Upon the filing of the mandate, the circuit court ordered

"that the case be put on the docket and it be referred to the officer of this Court to examine into the damages sustained by the claimant, David Canter, in consequence of the proceedings of the libellants, and report thereon at as early a day as possible to this Court."

The appellant, David Canter, thereupon filed in the circuit court "a statement of damages sustained by him, by the illegal seizure of 356 bales of cotton, by order of the underwriters."

The statement set forth losses on the sales of the cotton, and expenses and payments connected with the same, amounting to $3,639.87. Losses and probable gain on sales of rice purchased by the appellants, and which was sold instead of being shipped in consequence of the proceedings of the appellees; the cost of protest and damages on a bill of exchange drawn by him, and dishonored in consequence of the seizure of the cotton; law expenses at Charleston and Columbia in South Carolina and in Washington and traveling expenses to and in Washington; papers from Key West relative to judicial proceedings there; postages and protests, costs of the Supreme Court of the United States, and briefs; loss in the value of the cotton during the pendency of the proceedings, $2,860.

The counsel for the appellees filed with the register of the court a protest against the order of reference made by the circuit court, to ascertain the damages alleged to have been sustained by the appellant, on the grounds 1. that the mandate of the Supreme Court of the United States gives no

Page 28 U. S. 309

authority or instructions to the circuit court to inquire into damages; 2. that the decrees of the district, circuit, and Supreme Court, do not award damages to the appellant; 3. that the appellees were not in any manner liable for damages; 4. that at all events, the inquiry into damages cannot extend beyond the amount of the stipulations entered into by the appellees in the original proceedings, by which alone they are before the court.

The clerk of the circuit court refused all the claims preferred by the appellant, with the exception of the following:

Papers from Key West, to establish legality of

proceedings there, $51, postages and protests, $20 . . . . $ 71.00

Costs of the supreme courts and briefs, $72.02, protest and

damages on bill drawn by claimant, $222. . . . . . . . . . 294.02

This grew out of the cotton speculation, the bill was

dishonored in consequence of the seizure, the claimant

not being in funds to take up the draft.

Counsel fees, at Charleston and Washington . . . . . . . . . 1,150.00

---------

$1,515.02

Also the loss on the sale of the cotton, which was made before the proceedings were instituted against the cotton, and which sale was not completed by reason of the same, with interest on the balance of the sale after deducting the actual proceeds of the cotton, when sold by order of the district court $3,991.77, and also the actual loss on the rice purchased, to be paid for out of the proceeds of the cotton, rejecting the claim of probable profits, the sum actually allowed being $2,820.67.

These allowances were all excepted to by the appellees, and the appellant also excepted to the refusal of the clerk of the circuit court to admit all of the claims preferred in "the statement."

The circuit court refused to allow to the appellant any of the items reported by the clerk, with the exception of some of those comprehended in the "incidental expenses." As to

Page 28 U. S. 310

those items, the clerk rejected the sum of $222 for protests and damages on a bill of exchange, and ordered the counsel fees of the appellant to be paid under the mandate, upon the authority of The Apollon, 9 Wheat. 362, as the costs awarded him by the Supreme Court $1,372.82.

The appellant appealed to this Court.

At the last term, Mr. Cruger moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground that the mandate from this Court gave no authority to the Circuit Court of South Carolina to assess damages to the appellant. This motion was opposed by Mr. Coxe, for the appellant, and the court ordered the cause to be argued upon all the questions it involved, when it should be regularly called.

Page 28 U. S. 316

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