4,885 Bags of Linseed - 66 U.S. 108 (1861)
U.S. Supreme Court
4,885 Bags of Linseed, 66 U.S. 1 Black 108 108 (1861)
4,885 Bags of Linseed
66 U.S. (1 Black) 108
1. A vessel was chartered for a voyage from Boston to Calcutta and back, and the agents of the charterers at Calcutta subchartered her to other persons there, who loaded her with goods consigned to parties in Boston, under special bills of lading, which did not refer to the original charter party. Held that the rights of the shipowners to the freight, payable by the consignees, and their lien for it upon the goods depended entirely on the contract expressed in the bills of lading, and not upon anything contained in the charter party.
2. The lien of a shipowner for freight being but a right to retain the goods until payment of the freight, is inseparably associated with the possession of the goods, and is lost by an unconditional delivery to the consignee.
3. But if the cargo is placed in the hands of the consignee, with an understanding that the lien for freight is to continue, a court of admiralty will regard the transaction as a deposit of the goods in the ware house, and not as an absolute delivery, and on that ground will consider the shipowner as being still constructively in possession so far as to preserve his lien.
4. That such an understanding did exist between the parties must appear in the evidence, or be plainly inferable from the established local usage of the port, otherwise there is no possession, actual or constructive, to support the lien.
The libel in this case was filed in the district court by Paul Sears, Reuben Hopkins, James Smith, Alexander Child, William N. Batson, and Rowland H. Crosby, owners of the ship Bold Hunter, against four thousand eight hundred and eighty-five bags of linseed, seven thousand pockets of linseed, and fifteen hundred and thirty bags of pegue cutch. The goods libeled were part of a larger quantity brought to Boston from Calcutta by the Bold Hunter for Augustine Wills, and were at the time in store. The libellants demanded $14,948.57 as freight, less $5,000, which had been paid on account, and for
this balance of freight they insisted that their lien had not been waived or impaired by the delivery of the goods under the circumstances.
After warrant and monition were issued, and the goods seized by the marshal in pursuance thereof, Rufus Wills, administrator of Augustine Wills, deceased, came in as claimant, and made answer to the libel, denying that the libellants had any lien on the goods for the freight.
The parties did not dispute about the facts of the case. It appeared by their mutual admissions that the libellants were owners of the Bold Hunter, and in October, 1856, chartered her to Tuckerman, Townsend & Co. for a voyage from Calcutta to Boston at $15 per ton on whole packages and half that rate on loose stowage. The charter party contained the usual lien clause, with a stipulation that the freight should be paid in five and ten days after discharge at Boston, the credit not to impair the shipowner's lien for freight. On the ship's arrival at Calcutta, the charterers did not furnish an entire cargo, and procured some shipments on freights -- among others, one to Augustine Wills -- for which the master signed bills of lading, in the usual form, at various rates of freight, all less than the charter rates. These bills of lading were passed over to the libellants by Tuckerman, Townsend & Co. in part settlement of the charter money, and the libellants undertook to collect the freights. The ship arrived at Boston in October, 1857. The larger portion of the goods consigned to Wills were discharged by the consent of all parties, without being landed, into the ship Cyclone, bound to London, and the remainder were delivered to the claimant, who took them to the custom house stores, and entered them in bond in the name of Augustine Wills. When the Bold Hunter arrived, Augustine Wills, the consignee, was sick, and he died before the goods were all discharged. Rufus Wills, the claimant, acted as his agent before his death, and was his administrator afterwards. The goods were discharged and delivered without qualification, and nothing was said about holding them or any part of them for freight. The claimant, before the death of the consignee, paid $5,000 on the freights, but afterwards declined to pay any
more, saying that he did not know how the estate of Augustine Wills would turn out.
The district court dismissed the libel, and the decree was afterwards affirmed by the circuit court. Whereupon the libellant took this appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.