Vandewater v. Mills - 60 U.S. 82 (1856)
U.S. Supreme Court
Vandewater v. Mills, 60 U.S. 19 How. 82 82 (1856)
Vandewater v. Mills
60 U.S. (19 How.) 82
Maritime liens are stricti juris, and will not be extended by construction.
Contracts for the future employment of a vessel do not, by the maritime law, hypothecate the vessel.
The obligation between ship and cargo is mutual and reciprocal, and does not take place till the cargo is on board.
An agreement between owners of vessels to form a line for carrying passengers and freight between New York and San Francisco is but a contract for a limited partnership, and the remedy for a breach of it is in the common law courts.
This was a libel, filed originally in the district court by Vandewater against the steamer Yankee Blade for a violation of the following agreement:
"This agreement, made this twenty-fourth day of September, 1853, at the City of New York, between Edward Mills, as agent for owners of steamship Uncle Sam and William H.
Brown, as agent for the owners of steamship America, witnesseth, that said Mills and Brown hereby agree with each other, as agents for the owners of said ships before named, to run the two ships in connection for one voyage, on terms as follows, viz.:"
"Of all moneys received from passengers and for freight contracted through between New York and San Francisco, both ways, the Uncle Sam shall receive seventy-five percent, and the America shall receive twenty-five percent. The money to be received here, by said E. Mills, and the share of the America to be paid over to William H. Brown or to his order before the sailing of the ship, and the share due the America of moneys received on the Pacific side to be paid over to said Brown or to his order immediately on the arrival of the passengers in New York, by E. Mills, who guarantees, as agent aforesaid, the true and honest return of all funds received by his agents on the Pacific. It is understood that this trip is to be made by the Uncle Sam, leaving San Francisco on or about the 15th of October, and the America leaving New York on or about the 20th of October next."
"Each ship is to pay all expenses of her running and outfits, and to be responsible for her own acts in every respect. Each ship is to retain all the money received for local freight or passengers -- that is, for such freight and passengers as only pay to the ports the individual ship runs to, without any division with the other ship."
"No commissions are to be charged anywhere on any receipts for the America by said Mills, in division, but the expense of advertising and the amount paid out for runners at all points are to be borne by each ship in the same proportion as receipts are divided between them."
"In consideration of all the above well and truly performed in good faith, Edward Mills, as agent for the steamship Yankee Blade, hereby agrees that when the America arrives at Panama on her voyage hence for the Pacific Ocean, said ship Yankee Blade shall leave New York at such time as to connect with the America, conveying passengers and freight on the same terms as is herein before agreed, say 25 percent to the Yankee Blade, and 75 percent to the America, provided only that said connection shall be made at a time that will not prevent the Yankee Blade from making her connection with the Uncle Sam at her regular time."
After the usual preliminary proceedings in cases of libel, the proctors for the claimant filed the following exceptions:
The exceptions of Edward Mills, claimant and sole owner of the steamship Yankee Blade, to the libel of Robert J. Vandewater,
libellant, allege that the said libel is insufficient, as follows:
"First Exception. That on the face of said libel it appears that the alleged cause or causes of action therein set forth are not within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of this honorable court."
"Second Exception. There is no cause of action set forth in said libel, whereby the said steamship Yankee Blade can be proceeded against in rem in this honorable court."
"Third Exception. On the face of said libel, it appears the libellant is not entitled to the relief therein prayed for, nor to any decree against the said steamship."
"And therefore the said claimant prays that the said libel may be dismissed with costs."
In June, 1855, the district judge sustained the exceptions and dismissed the libel, whereupon the libellant appealed to the circuit court.
In September, the circuit court affirmed the decree, and the libellant brought the case up to this Court.