Schnell v. The Vallescura,
293 U.S. 296 (1934)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Schnell v. The Vallescura, 293 U.S. 296 (1934)

Schnell v. The Vallescura

No. 134

Argued November 14, 1934

Decided December 3, 1934

293 U.S. 296


1. The provision of § 3 of the Harter Act, relieving vessels and their owners from the consequences of "fault or error in navigation or management" of the vessels, does not relate to damage caused to cargo by failure to care for it properly on the voyage, e.g., failure to give proper ventilation to a shipment of onions, causing decay. P. 293 U. S. 303.

2. It is the general rule that a carrier by sea who delivers in bad condition cargo that he received for shipment in good condition must bear the loss unless he can bring himself within some common law or stipulated exception to his general liability. P. 293 U. S. 303.

3. To such exceptions, the law itself annexes a condition that they shall relieve the carrier from liability for loss from an excepted cause only if, in the course of the voyage, he has used due care to guard against it, and this is recognized and continued in the first section of the Harter Act, which makes it unlawful to insert any clause in a bill of lading whereby the carrier shall be relieved of liability for negligence. P. 293 U. S. 304.

4. A stipulation in a bill of lading excepting liability for damage to perishable cargo by "decay" relates to decay due to inherent defects in the cargo or caused by excepted perils of the sea; it leaves the carrier liable for decay resulting from negligent stowage of the cargo or failure to care for it properly during the voyage. P. 293 U. S. 305.

Page 293 U. S. 297

5. It appeared by the evidence that decay of a cargo of onions was the result of poor ventilation caused by closure of hatches and ventilators for many hours during the voyage, and that, for a specified part of this time, the closure was proper because of bad weather, but for the rest of the time it was improper. Held that the burden was on the carrier to show how much of the damage was due to the sea peril (excepted in the bill of lading), and that, failing in this, the ship was liable for the entire loss. P. 293 U. S. 306.

70 F.2d 261 reversed.

Certiorari to review the reversal of a decree in admiralty finding a ship liable for damage to a cargo of onions.

Page 293 U. S. 301

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