Before CLARK, Chief Judge, MEDINA, Circuit Judge, and SMITH, District Judge.
J. JOSEPH SMITH, District Judge.
This is an appeal in admiralty from a decree holding a shipowner liable for shortage in weight of a shipment of skins.
Libelant-appellee, Spanish-American Skin Company of Gloversville, New York, contracted to buy 500 dozen sheepskins, to weigh between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds, from a seller at Lagos, Nigeria. Payment was to be by letter of credit, in its final form calling for on-board bills of lading, commercial and consular invoices, certificate of origin, specifications and a government certified weight list. 60 bundles of sheepskins were delivered to the ship's agent at Lagos and placed in a lighter belonging to the carrier, from which they were loaded on the ship three days later. There was no testimony as to the supervision of the lighter during the three days. After loading on the ship the shipper was given an onboard bill of lading describing the cargo as follows:
"Received, in apparent good order and condition from Messrs. Adeakinsanya and Sons: ...
Shipper's Description of Goods: Shipper's Weight
Marks Packages Description Gross Weight
SASCO 60 Bags Genuine Sokoto Gross T126.96.36.199
1/60 Origin Sheepskins Tare -2.-
New York 1st Quality Nett 188.8.131.52"
The bill of lading also bore a rubberstamped imprint "Steamer not responsible for weight, quality or condition of contents." The bill of lading provided that the terms of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act should apply prior to loading on the vessel, upon receipt of the goods by the carrier. Freight was based on a shipment of 6.4535 tons. The skins were not weighed by the ship, although weighing facilities were available at Lagos Customs. When delivered at Gloversville, New York, the shipment was found to consist of 60 bundles of sheepskins weighing 2,305 pounds. There was some intimation in the evidence that the government weight list furnished by the shipper may have been forged. It was conceded that the bundles were not tampered with subsequent to their loading on the ship at Lagos but not that there had been no tampering after loading on the lighter. Judge Dawson under the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act found for the libelant to recover of the ship and its owner damages for the shortage of the skins with interest from the date of delivery to the ship, and costs, amounting in all to $9,939.96, holding that the bill of lading was prima facie evidence of the weight of skins received by the carrier.
Two errors are claimed on this appeal, the ruling that the bill of lading was prima facie evidence of the weight of the shipment received by the carrier, and the ruling that this prima ...