St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Ry. Co. v. Knight,
122 U.S. 79 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Ry. Co. v. Knight, 122 U.S. 79 (1887)

St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway Company v. Knight

Argued May 3, 1887

Decided May 23, 1887

122 U.S. 79


A bill of lading, acknowledging the receipt by a common carrier of "the following packages, contents unknown . . . marked and numbered as per margin, to be transported" to the place of destination is not a warranty on the part of the carrier that the goods are of the quality described in the margin.

P. shipped by rail a large quantity of cotton at different times and at different points south of Texarkana, Arkansas, to be made up into bales there at a compress house and to be thence forwarded to various destinations North and East. The work at the compress house was to be done by the carrier, but under direction of the shipper, who had control of the cotton there for that purpose and who superintended the weighing, the classing, and the marking of it and who selected for shipment the particular bales to fill the respective orders at the points of destination. Bills of lading for it were issued from time to time by the agents of the railroad company, sometimes in advance of the separation by P. of particular bales from the mass to correspond with them. P. was in the habit of drawing against shipments with bills of lading attached, and his drafts were discounted at the local banks. When shipments were heavy, drafts would often mature before the arrival of the cotton. 352 bales, marked on the margin as of a particular quality, were so selected and shipped to K. at Providence, Rhode Island. The bill of lading described them as "contents unknown," "marked and numbered as per margin." The contents of the bales on arrival were found not to correspond with the marks on the margin. The consignee had honored the draft before the arrival of the cotton. He refused to receive the cotton, and sold it on account of the railroad company after notice to it, and sued in assumpsit on the bill of lading to recover from the company, as a common carrier, the amount of the loss.


(1) That the bill of lading was not a guarantee by the carrier that the cotton was of the quality described in the margin.

(2) That if the railroad company was liable as warehouseman, that liability could not be enforced under this declaration, nor, under the circumstances of this case, by the consignee of the cotton.

(3) That the company was not liable as a common carrier from points south of Texarkana for the specific bales consigned to K.

Page 122 U. S. 80

(4) That its liability as common carrier began only when specific lots were marked and designated at Texarkana and specifically set apart to correspond with a bill of lading then or previously issued.

In Illinois, under an unverified plea of the general issue in assumpsit against a common carrier for goods lost, the defendant may at the trial deny his liability under the bill of lading, § 34 of the Practice Act having no application to such a denial.

Assumpsit against plaintiff in error, defendant below, as a common carrier to recover on a bill of lading for goods not delivered. Judgment for plaintiffs. Defendant sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

Page 122 U. S. 81

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