Berthold v. Goldsmith
65 U.S. 536 (1860)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Berthold v. Goldsmith, 65 U.S. 24 How. 536 536 (1860)

Berthold v. Goldsmith

65 U.S. (24 How.) 536

Syllabus

To enlarge his business, Goldsmith, the original plaintiff, authorized a third person to go to St. Louis to negotiate an arrangement with some commission house there to accept consignments of cigars from him and to sell the same on his account, agreeing with the person so authorized to give him half the profits, with a guaranty that his compensation should amount to eighteen hundred dollars per annum. He made the arrangement with the defendants, stipulating as to their commissions and that the cigars should be shipped at Baltimore, in bond, subject to duties and charges, and notified the plaintiff of the terms and conditions; whereupon the plaintiff wrote the defendants a letter, concluding with these words: "All shipped to your house. I will hold you responsible," and sent two invoices of cigars, which were duly received. Afterwards, the person who negotiated the arrangement wrote an order to the defendants to deliver all the cigars, not sold, to another firm, upon receiving whatever sums they had advanced. That firm paid the advances, received the cigars and sold them, but no portion of the proceeds ever came to the hands of the plaintiff. The defense was that the person who gave the order was either a partner or an agent of the plaintiff, and in either capacity had a right to direct a transfer of the cigars, and thus exonerate the defendants from all liability.

Held:

1. Actual participation in the profits, as principals in general, creates a partnership as between the participant and third persons, whatever may have been the real relation of the former to the firm, but the rule has no application to a case of mere service or special agency, where the employee has no power in the firm and no such interest in the profits as will enable him to go into a court of equity to enforce a lien for the same or to compel an account. Unless such employee is in some way interested in the profits of the business, as principal, he cannot be regarded as falling within the general rule, because, when not so interested, his condition is not different from that of an ordinary creditor. Cases may arise, on one side and the other of the line, where the difference between them is so slight that it may appear to be unsubstantial, yet the distinction itself is well founded in reason, and the only difficulty is in the application of the principle on which it rests. No such difficulty, however, occurs in this case, for the defendants were a party to the arrangement and knew the relation which the person who negotiated it sustained to them and to the plaintiff, and they also knew that the goods had been sent by the plaintiff and received by them on the terms and conditions specified in the plaintiff's letter. He was not, therefore, a partner in fact, or as between the plaintiff and defendants.

2. He was not an agent of the plaintiff authorized to withdraw the consignments, or to exonerate the defendants from their obligation to account for the sales.

Page 65 U. S. 537

On the contrary, the arrangement was that the cigars should remain in their custody and control, and that they should stand responsible for the proceeds, and the case shows that it was never changed. The court below were right in instructing the jury that there was no evidence to sustain the second ground of defense.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.

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