The Star of Hope
84 U.S. 651 (1873)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Star of Hope, 84 U.S. 17 Wall. 651 651 (1873)

The Star of Hope

84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 651

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

Syllabus

Nuts in bags and boxes were shipped at New York to be delivered at San Francisco. It was shown on the trial that if nuts are stowed in the hold on this voyage, they are very liable to be injured by sweat; that it is the almost invariable practice to carry them in the cabin, or cabin state rooms, and to enter them on the bill of lading as to be thus carried; and that if they are carried in the hold, they are sometimes enclosed in water-tight oil casks in order to keep them in proper condition. The packages in this case were all marked "in cabin state room." The contract of the bill of lading was that the goods should be delivered in San Francisco "in good order and condition, dangers of the seas, fire, and collisions excepted." The goods were placed in the hold without notice to the shippers, and were damaged on the voyage by sweating. Held that in view of the almost invariable practice as to the stowage of nuts on this voyage, of the well known fact that if stowed in the hold, they are extremely liable to be injured by sweat, and of the marks and directions on the packages in question in this case, it was culpable negligence

Page 84 U. S. 652

in the master of the vessel to stow them in the hold, and that the vessel was liable accordingly.

Church & Clark libeled the ship Star of Hope in the District Court for California for damages done to a quantity of nuts in bags and boxes, which had been shipped at New York on board of the said vessel, to be delivered to them at San Francisco. It was clearly shown on the trial that if nuts are stowed in the hold on this voyage, they are very liable to be injured by sweat; that it is the almost invariable practice to carry them in the cabin, or cabin state rooms, and to enter them on the bill of lading as to be thus carried; and that if they are carried in the hold, they are sometimes enclosed in water-tight oil casks in order to keep them in proper condition. The packages in this case were all marked "in cabin state room," and when they were delivered for shipment, receipts were given by the receiving clerk of the vessel specifying in the margin the marks of the goods, including the direction above quoted. But the bill of lading, which was received by the shippers after the parcels were delivered, omitted any allusion to this direction. It contracted simply that the goods should be delivered in San Francisco "in good order and condition, dangers of the sea, fire, and collisions excepted." The goods were placed in the hold without notice to the shippers, and having been injured on the voyage, this libel was filed for damages.

The district court decreed in favor of the libellants, and the circuit court having affirmed the decree, this appeal brought the case here for review.

Page 84 U. S. 654

MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

The claimant insists that the bill of lading is the only contract binding on him, and as that did not specify any particular place for the stowage of the goods, they were properly stowed between decks in the hold.

This is not a sufficient answer to the libellants' case. The contract of the bill of lading was that the goods should be delivered in San Francisco "in good order and condition, dangers of the seas, fire, and collisions excepted." The defense is to the effect that "sweating" is one of the dangers of the seas. But if the sweating be produced in consequence of negligent stowage, the claimant is precluded from setting up the defense. If costly mirrors are stowed amongst loose articles of hardware, or if a case enclosing valuable statuary, and marked "This side up with care," is placed upside down amongst a lot of pig-iron, the claimant could hardly contend that he is protected from responsibility by the clause relating to the dangers of the seas. In this matter, as in all

Page 84 U. S. 655

others, due care and its opposite, negligence, are relative terms, having respect to the nature of the duty to be performed, the knowledge communicated to the party to be charged, and the prevailing usages of the business. In view of the almost invariable practice as to the stowage of nuts on this voyage, of the well known fact that if stowed in the hold, they are extremely liable to be injured by sweat, and of the marks and directions on the packages in question in this case, it was culpable negligence in the master of the vessel to stow them in the hold. If he could not stow them as directed, he should at least have given notice to the shippers.

This view of the case is sufficient to dispose of it without deciding whether the evidence in reference to the stowage of nuts established a custom of the trade in the proper sense of that term or whether the shipping receipts were a part of the contract of affreightment.

Decree affirmed with interest and costs.

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.