Commercial National Bank v. Canal-Louisiana Bank,
239 U.S. 520 (1916)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Commercial National Bank v. Canal-Louisiana Bank, 239 U.S. 520 (1916)

Commercial National Bank of New Orleans v.

Canal-Louisiana Bank & Trust Company

No. 117

Argued December 8, 1915

Decided January 10, 1916

239 U.S. 520


One who has no title to chattels cannot transfer title unless the owner has given authority or is estopped, nor can he, in the absence of such authority or estoppel, transfer title by warehousing the goods and endorsing the receipts. If, however, the owner of chattels clothes another with apparent ownership through the possession of warehouse receipts negotiable in form, a bona fide purchaser for value to whom the receipts are negotiated can be protected.

The clear import of the applicable provisions of the Uniform Warehouse Receipts Act enacted in Louisiana in 1908, is that, if the owner of goods permits another to have possession or custody of negotiable warehouse receipts running to the latter or to bearer, it is a representation of title upon which bona fide purchasers for value may rely, notwithstanding breaches of trust or violations of agreement on the part of the apparent owner.

The provision in § 57 of the Uniform Warehouse Act as enacted in Louisiana in 1908, and as the same has been enacted in other states, that the Act is to be so interpreted and construed as to effectuate its general purpose to make uniform the law of those states which enact it, is a rule of construction that prevents the Act from being regarded as an offshoot of local law to be construed in the light of decisions under former statutes of the enacting state, and requires the statute to be construed in the light of the cardinal principle of the Act itself.

The Uniform Acts relating to commercial affairs have been enacted in various states for the beneficent object of unifying so far as possible under one dual system of government the commercial law of the country, and to give effect, within prescribed limits, to the mercantile view of documents of title, and this principle should be recognized in construing the acts to the exclusion of any inconsistent doctrine previously obtaining in any of the enacting states.

Where the holder of warehouse receipts clothes another with such

Page 239 U. S. 521

indicia of ownership of the goods that a bona fide purchaser for value is enabled to take title thereto, the rule that the earlier of equal equities should prevail does not apply, as the later equities are based upon the action of the holder of the earlier equity, who is estopped thereby.

In a controversy between claimants of goods, held that giving to another negotiable bills of lading under trust receipts which authorized the taker to receive the avails of the goods or the document therefor so clothes the latter with indicia of ownership of the goods that the equities of a bona fide purchaser for value of warehouse receipts obtained for the goods on the bills of lading surrendered in exchange therefor are superior to those of the original owner of the bills of lading who had endorsed and delivered them under trust receipts which had been violated by the party transferring to the later purchaser.

211 F. 337 reversed.

The facts, which involve the determination in a bankruptcy proceeding of conflicting rights of pledgees of the same goods represented by warehouse receipts therefor, and the construction and application of provisions of the Uniform Warehouse Receipts Acts of Louisiana, are stated in the opinion.

Page 239 U. S. 522

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