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CULLIFORD v. GOMILA.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


decided: October 29, 1888.

CULLIFORD
v.
GOMILA.

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA.

Author: Blatchford

[ 128 U.S. Page 150]

 MR. JUSTICE BLATCHFORD, after stating the case as above reported, delivered the opinion of the court.

We are of opinion that the Circuit Court ought to have dismissed the libel, and that its decree must be reversed.

[ 128 U.S. Page 151]

     Negotiations for a charter of the vessel were opened in New Orleans, between De Wolf & Hammond and Gomila & Co., on the 16th of June, two days before the vessel arrived. Gomila & Co. then had a contract with Forestier & Co., made on the 7th of June, whereby the former sold to the latter a cargo of not less than 10,000 quarters and not more than 12,000 quarters, of 480 pounds each of corn, at 60 cents per bushel of 56 pounds, "on board seller's vessel, with freight at (6s.) six shillings per quarter, and to be shipped from New Orleans during the month of June, not later than the 30th (midnight), (seller's option)." In such negotiations with De Wolf & Hammond, Gomila & Co. insisted on a guarantee by the owners of the vessel that she should carry 10,000 quarters of 480 pounds each. Thereupon, on the 16th of June, a cable dispatch was sent by De Wolf & Hammond to Mr. Hammond of that firm, who was then in Europe and in communication with the respondents there, stating the terms of the offer which Gomila & Co. had made to charter the vessel, but that she must be guaranteed to carry not less than 10,000 quarters, and that it was proposed that the charterers should have the power of canceling the charter-party if the vessel was not ready to load cargo by the 25th of June. To this dispatch Mr. Hammond replied, on the 18th of June, agreeing to the terms, and directing that the guarantee of the carriage of the 10,000 quarters should be made provided the captain should agree to the quantity, but saying nothing as to the canceling clause. In view of these dispatches and of the previous negotiations, Mr. De Wolf, of De Wolf & Hammond, and the master of the vessel, and Mr. Gomila, of Gomila & Co., had a consultation, on the 18th of June, as to whether the vessel could carry 10,000 quarters of corn. At this consultation, Gomila and the master, both of them, reached the conclusion that the vessel would be able to carry 10,000 quarters, and Gomila advised the master to so cable the owners. This would be a reply to Mr. Hammond's cable dispatch of June 18th, in regard to the captain's agreeing to the quantity. A cable message was then made up by the master and De Wolf, from Gomila's code-book, in which the master said, "the vessel will carry 10,000 quarters of

[ 128 U.S. Page 152]

     grain, if we coal at Halifax." That message does not appear to have been sent, but, after it was prepared, Gomila "gave as his reasons for insisting on a guarantee," that is, a guarantee that the vessel should carry not less than 10,000 quarters, "the aforesaid contract with Forestier & Co., which was produced and read, and Gomila stated that he had no use for any vessel that would not carry 10,000 quarters of grain; that he must have a guarantee, and feared that if the vessel would not carry that amount the consequences would be serious; that the market had declined and was still declining, and the loss would be very heavy, because the buyer would have the right to reject the cargo if the conditions were not strictly fulfilled."

It is not found as a fact, that Gomila, in these negotiations and consultations, insisted upon any other guarantee than the one that the vessel should carry not less than 10,000 quarters of grain, of 480 pounds. Although he produced and read his contract with Forestier & Co., he did not insist that there should be a provision or a guarantee in the charter-party that the cargo "should be shipped from New Orleans during the month of June, not later than the 30th (midnight);" nor did he insist upon any undertaking or guarantee in the charter-party that the vessel should commence her loading of the grain at any particular time, or should finish it at any particular time, or that she should coal at any particular place, or that there should be any canceling clause in the charter-party.

On the 18th of June De Wolf & Hammond sent to Hammond, at Liverpool, a cable message stating that it was the opinion of the captain of the vessel that she could carry 10,000 quarters, coaling at Sydney, and that they had closed the charter-party according to the terms which it contains, stating those terms, (but not excluding Rouen,) subject to the owner's approval. To that message De Wolf & Hammond received, on the 19th of June, from Hammond an answer accepting on behalf of the respondents the offer, excluding Rouen, and the charter-party was then entered into, on the 19th of June.

It contains a provision that the "steamer is guaranteed to carry not less than ten thousand quarters, of 480 lbs." It contains

[ 128 U.S. Page 153]

     no provision as to the time when the loading of the grain shall commence, or when it shall be completed, or when the grain shall be shipped. It contains a provision that the vessel shall "have liberty to call at any ports for coal or other supplies;" and one (Article 13) that sixteen running days, Sundays excepted, are to be allowed the charterers, if the steamer shall not be sooner dispatched, for loading and discharging, and ten days on demurrage, over and above the said lay days, at six pence sterling per gross register ton per day. The net register tonnage was stated in the charter-party to be 1090, or thereabouts. The blank in Article 14, that the charters should have the option of canceling the charter if the vessel should not be ready to load at New Orleans on or before a specified day, was not filled in, and no canceling provision was inserted. By Article 15, the lay days were to commence the day after the steamer was declared ready to receive cargo, and had been passed by the surveyor of grain vessels, and written notice had been given by the master to the charterers, that is, written notice of the readiness of the vessel to receive cargo, and of her having been passed by the surveyor of grain vessels.

It is stated, in the fifth finding of facts, that the canceling date of the charter-party, that is, some date to be filled into the blank left in Article 14, "was not fixed, because Gomila & Co. waived it, as the ship was in port and they had confidence in the ability and willingness of the master to get the ship ready in time." Gomila & Co., by waiving the insertion of such date, abandoned all claim to insist upon the right to cancel the charter-party if the vessel should not be ready to load by a day specified, so as to enable them to comply with the requirement in their contract with Forestier & Co., as to the time named in that contract for the shipment of the grain. Although the contract with Forestier & Co. was produced and read in the consultation and negotiation had before the charter-party was signed, no day for the readiness of the vessel to load was specified in the charter-party, and the waiver of the canceling date, by Gomila & Co., was made in full view of the fact, that the terms of the contract with Forestier & Co.

[ 128 U.S. Page 154]

     were known to De Wolf & Hammond and the master of the vessel, as well as to Gomila & Co.

On the 28th of June, the loading of the vessel was commenced, with the consent of all concerned, although, as the findings state, no formal tender appears to have been made of the vessel on that day. Article 15 of the charter-party states that the sixteen running lay days are to commence after written notice is given by the master to the charterers, of the readiness of the vessel to receive cargo. It is not found that such notice was given. the loading was continued until 20 minutes past 3 o'clock on the 30th of June, when it was stopped, and the vessel was declared by the inspector for the underwriters to be full all over, and ready to proceed on her voyage, and he gave his certificate to that effect. The findings state that she then had only 9635 quarters on board, equivalent to 82,588 2/56 bushels, "and could take no more with safety, as she was then loaded and stowed, although libellants had the balance of the cargo of 10,000 quarters in barges alongside, and it could have been put on board before midnight if the ship could have taken it." After the loading had begun, and before it was known whether the vessel could take the 10,000 quarters, all parties supposing that she could, Gomila & Co., as was usual in such cases, handed their copy of the charter-party to Forestier & Co. The latter, without authority from Gomila & Co., took such copy to De Wolf & Hammond, unindorsed, and obtained a charter-party in their own name, but otherwise the same in all respects as the charter-party to Gomila & Co., for the purpose, as Forestier & Co. explained, of appearing to their correspondents in Europe to be the original parties to the charter-party. Gomila & Co. were advised of this by De Wolf, of De Wolf & Hammond, before the loading was finished, on June 30th, but replied to him that they would not object to such a change if the vessel fulfilled the guarantee in the charter-party, but that if she failed to do so they would expect the return of the paper. On this point the Circuit Court expressly finds "that Gomila & Co. did not authorize the surrender of their charter and the giving of a new one to Forestier & Co., save upon the condition

[ 128 U.S. Page 155]

     that the Deronda should first execute her guarantee." Therefore, Gomila & Co. not only retained the ownership of the corn which they had laden on the vessel, but they held the respondents to a compliance with the charter, by not giving notice to De Wolf & Hammond that they, the charterers, considered the charter-party at an end by reason of the fact that, as the vessel was then loaded and stowed, she could take with safety no more than the 9635 quarters, then on board.

It is stated in the findings that "when, on the 20th of June, the steamer was loaded, as described in the sixth finding, all parties had notice at once that the steamer could not carry the quantity guaranteed." What the word "notice" in this statement means is not entirely clear. It is not stated that De Wolf & Hammond, as agents of the vessel, gave any notice to the libellants that the vessel could not and would not carry the 10,000 quarters, nor is it found that Gomila & Co., thereafter gave any notice to the respondents, or to the agents of the vessel, that they would consider the charter-party cancelled. On the contrary, under the direction of Gomila, acting through Forestier & Co., negotiations were opened to arrange the matter with the respondents. As a part of the effort to do so, Forestier & Co., by cable, endeavored to induce their correspondents in Europe to take the 9635 quarters which had been loaded, but this was refused. As part of the negotiations, De Wolf & Hammond cabled to the respondents, on June 30th and July 3d, asking for advice, and received the answers of July 1st, and July 4th, before set out. It is found that it does not appear that the charterers at the time had any knowledge of the above-named dispatches. Still, both parties left the question open, and carried on negotiations with a view to a compromise, but without any result, until the 5th of July, on which day Forestier & Co. notified Gomila & Co. that they refused the cargo because it was short and their buyers in Copenhagen had declined to accept it. They claimed damages of Gomila & Co., for a violation of the contract of sale of June 7th, consisting in the loss of their commissions, amounting to $3194.29, which Gomila & Co. paid to them. From July 3d to July 5th, Gomila & Co., as owning the corn

[ 128 U.S. Page 156]

     laden on board of the vessel, telegraphed to some of the best known dealers in England and France for quotations and offers. This manifestly was under the view that the 9635 quarters were to be carried by the vessel, and under the charter-party. But the best offer was a sum which they were unwilling to accept, and they then notified De Wolf & Hammond that they would sell the cargo on board of the vessel, at the shipper's risk, in the port of New Orleans, with the privilege of the charter. They thus still adhered to the charter as a subsisting charter with themselves. But, before they sold the cargo, and on the 6th of July, De Wolf & Hammond notified them (Gomila & Co.) that they (De Wolf & Hammond) would take out coal and make room for the balance of the cargo, and that the vessel would be made ready by the 7th of July. Gomila & Co. refused this proposal, and sold the cargo on the 7th of July. They did this wrongfully. Negotiations in regard to the matter had continued from and including the 30th of June, when the loading of the 9635 quarters had been completed, to and including the 5th of July, not only with the assent of Gomila & Co., but with their active co-operations. By the 6th of July, De Wolf & Hammond had satisfied themselves that by a rearrangement of the stowage and by taking out some of the coal and water, room could be made for more cargo, sufficient to make up the 10,000 quarters. Under the circumstances, and in view of the facts before stated, that there was no day specified in the charter-party for the commencement or completion of the loading, and no canceling date named in the charter-party, there was no unreasonable delay in the action of the respondents or their agents. Notwithstanding this offer on the part of the vessel, Gomila & Co., on the 7th of July, sold the 9635 quarters on board of the vessel at public auction, with privilege of the charter, to A. Carriere & Sons, for $29,622.84, which was not quite 36 cents per bushel. The corn afterwards came into the hands of Forestier & Co., by a repurchase, at the price of $40,422.00, which was at the rate of not quite 49 cents per bushel.

On the 13th of July, the stowage of the vessel having been in the meantime rearranged, and a large quantity of coal and

[ 128 U.S. Page 157]

     water, the latter from the ballast tanks, having been taken out, she was again tendered to Gomila & Co., and to Forestier & Co., and the balance of the cargo was demanded. This was furnished by J.B. Camors & Co., and enough more corn was taken on board to make over 10,000 quarters, with which the vessel sailed on the 18th of July for her original destination. She arrived safely and delivered her cargo.

Upon the foregoing facts we are unable to concur in the conclusions of law arrived at by the Circuit Court. The vessel did carry 10,000 quarters of corn, of 480 pounds. With the exception of 365 quarters, or 3126 bushels, out of 10,000 quarters, or 85,708 bushels, this corn was the identical corn laden on board of the vessel by Gomila & Co. The only stipulation in the charter-party with Gomila & Co. which they insisted upon having inserted was, therefore, complied with, and complied with in a reasonable time, as we have seen, in the absence of all provisions in the charter-party with Gomila & Co. that the vessel should commence loading by a certain day, or complete loading by a certain day, or that the cargo should be suipped from New Orleans by a certain day; and in the absence of any written notice from the master to the libellants, as provided in the charter-party, as to the readiness of the vessel to receive cargo, in order to set running the lay days for loading; and in the absence of any notice by the libellants to De Wolf & Hammond that they considered the charter-party at an end because of a breach of the guarantee that the vessel should carry not less than 10,000 quarters, of 480 pounds, prior to the giving of the notice by De Wolf & Hammond to Gomila & Co., on the 6th of July, that room would be made for the balance of the 10,000 quarters, or prior to the sale of the cargo at auction by Gomila & Co., on the 7th of July. Not before such sale on that day, with privilege of the charter, did Gomila & Co. terminate their interest under the charter; and by such action, under the circumstances, they failed to keep the charter-party on their part, while the respondents had not at that time failed to perform it on their part, and afterwards went on and performed it. If Gomila & Co. had not made the auction sale, of the 7th of July, they might themselves, as clearly appears,

[ 128 U.S. Page 158]

     have afterwards furnished the 365 quarters, and obtained all they were entitled to under their charter-party.If they lost anything by reason of their failure to carry out their contract with Forestier & Co., it was not the fault of the respondents in failing to observe any stipulation on their part in the charter-party with Gomila & Co., but it was due to the fact that Gomila & Co., accepted a charter-party which did not contain such provisions as to time and as to cancellation as would have enabled them to hold the respondents to the same terms, as to the time of shipping the cargo, which were provided for in the contract between Gomila & Co. and Forestier & Co. Those provisions were industriously left out of the charter-party after both of the parties who were to make it had had their attention called to the terms of the contract of sale between Gomila & Co. and Forestier & Co. That being so, Gomila & Co. cannot have the same benefit as if those provisions had been inserted. The court is bound to give effect to the stipulations of the contract, but not to provisions which the parties deliberately omitted to insert, after attention had been directed to them. This ruling is in harmony with the views laid down in Norrington v. Wright, 115 U.S. 188, and in Filley v. Pope, 115 U.S. 213.

In accordance with these views, the decree of the Circuit Court is reversed, and the case is remanded to that court with a direction to enter a decree dismissing the libel, with costs to the respondents in the District Court and in the Circuit Court.

18881029

© 1998 VersusLaw Inc.



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