The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS
This consolidated cause is based upon a claim for cargo damage to a shipment of crude rubber ex S.S. Pan Crescent arriving in New York on November 10, 1942, on a voyage from Liberia. The libellant, Firestone Plantations Company, is a subsidiary of intervening libellant Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, and it is the latter which seeks recovery from the respondent Pan Atlantic Steamship Corporation as owner of the Pan Crescent; the respondent American-West African Line, Inc., is not now before the Court because the libel was withdrawn as to it at the hearing.
Nothing is asserted on behalf of the Firestone Plantations Company, the grower of the rubber, since ownership of the cargo was actually acquired by Rubber Reserve Company, but the libels were filed by the former as shipper of the cargo 'for the benefit of all parties who may be or may become interested' as their interests may appear.
If the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company had acquired any rights in the cargo as such and while it was cargo, or as assignee of the bills of lading, that pleading would probably have been sufficient for its purposes as a suitor. Knute Nelson, 1939 A.M.C. 1024.
The ship was operated under standard form of charter with the United States, War Shipping Administration, agreement WSA 255.
The Rubber Reserve Company was a corporate agency of the Government (that is, it was a subsidiary of Reconstruction Finance Corporation) the office of which was to acquire and dispose of all rubber imports in the interests of the nation.
The Rubber Reserve Company sold all or so much of the crude rubber on the Pan Crescent as is here involved, to Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, pursuant to a written expression of intention that at the request of the Rubber Reserve Company, the said Firestone Tire & Rubber Company 'shall agree to purchase from Rubber Reserve Company ex-dock New York, all crude rubber on latex which Rubber Reserve Company purchases from the Firestone Plantations Company'.
Thus it is clear that the Rubber Reserve Company could request the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company to buy whatever the former had purchased from the latter's grower; if no such request were made, there would of course be no purchase.
The transaction being ex-dock, I think the purchaser made its bargain for the crude rubber in the condition in which it was at that place. If it had suffered damage while on the ship, presumably the price to be paid would have been adjusted by negotiation so as to allow for the deterioration then present.
The libellant relies upon the following cases to demonstrate the contrary:
Munson S.S. Line v. Rosenthal, D.C., 6 F.Supp. 374:
The present bearing of this case is that a commission merchant who had made advances to the owner of a cargo of tomatoes had a sufficient interest to enable him to bring suit for damages alleged to have been sustained by the cargo, while in transit. In other words, it was not the case of a purchaser who acquired title ex-dock.
In this case damage to cargo for improper stowage was held to sustain the cause of Wellman who was the purchaser of the cargo, the consignee, and the assignee of the bill of lading. He in turn had sold to Standard whose payment of the purchase price to Wellman put him in funds to pay his letter of credit in faith of which the shipment had been made. Standard was permitted to intervene so as to assert its equitable interest in Wellman's recovery for damages sustained by the cargo while in transit.
The Court says: 'The equities between the holder of the bill of lading and such persons (as Standard) are not matters which a carrier guilty of negligence can urge in his defense.' (Citing cases.)
It is to be observed that cargo loss creates right of reimbursement on the part of the cargo owner or his assignee, and hence of one who has a special property in the cargo. If the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company is the assignee of Rubber Reserve Company, or if it acquired what is loosely called an ...