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SHAW V. RAILROAD COMPANY, 101 U. S. 557 (1879)

U.S. Supreme Court

Shaw v. Railroad Company, 101 U.S. 557 (1879)

Shaw v. Railroad Company, 101 U.S. 557 (1879)

101 U.S. 557


1. Statutes are not to be construed as altering the common law or as making any innovation therein further than their words import.

2. Although a statute makes bills of lading negotiable by endorsement and delivery, it does not follow that all the consequences incident to the endorsement of bills and notes before maturity ensue or are intended to result from such negotiation.

3. The rule that a bona fide purchaser of a lost or stolen bill or note endorsed in blank or payable to bearer is not bound to look beyond the instrument, has no application to the case of a lost or stolen bill of lading.

4. The purchaser of a bill of lading who has reason to believe that his vendor was not the owner thereof, or that it was held to secure an outstanding draft, is not a bona fide purchaser, nor entitled to hold the merchandise covered by the bill against its true owner.

5. Where the judgment below was entered properly, this Court will not remand the case for a new trial because of the verbal mistake of the clerk in using a superfluous word in entering the verdict. As the verdict was amendable in the court below, the amendment will be regarded as made.

This is an action of replevin brought by the Merchants' National Bank of St. Louis, Missouri, against Shaw & Esrey, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to recover possession of certain cotton, marked "W D I." One hundred and forty-one bales thereof having been taken possession of by the marshal were returned to the defendants upon their entering into the proper bond. On Nov. 11, 1874, Norvell & Co., of St. Louis, sold to the bank their draft for $11,947.43 on M. Kuhn & Brother, of

Page 101 U. S. 558

Philadelphia, and, as collateral security for the payment thereof endorsed in blank and delivered to the bank an original bill of lading for one hundred and seventy bales of cotton that day shipped to the last-named city. The duplicate bill of lading was on the same day forwarded to Kuhn & Brother by Norvell & Co. The Merchants' Bank forwarded the draft, with the bill of lading thereto attached, to the Bank of North America. On November 14, the last-named bank sent the draft -- the original bill of lading still being attached thereto -- to Kuhn & Brother by its messenger for acceptance. The messenger presented the draft and bill to one of the members of that firm, who accepted the former, but, without being detected, substituted the duplicate for the original bill of lading.

On the day upon which this transaction occurred, Kuhn & Brother endorsed the original bill of lading to Miller & Brother, and received thereon an advance of $8,500. Within a few days afterwards, the cotton, or rather that portion of it which is in controversy, was, through the agency of a broker, sold by sample with the approval of Kuhn & Brother to the defendants, who were manufacturers at Chester, Pennsylvania. The bill of lading, having been deposited on the same day with the North Pennsylvania Railroad Company, at whose depot the cotton was expected to arrive, it was on its arrival delivered to the defendants.

The fact that the Bank of North America held the duplicate instead of the original bill of lading was discovered for the first time on the 9th of December, by the president of the plaintiff, who had gone to Philadelphia in consequence of the failure of Kuhn & Brother and the protest of the draft.

The defendants below contended that the bill of lading was negotiable in the ordinary sense of that word; that Miller & Brother had purchased it for value in the usual course of business, and that they thereby had acquired a valid title to the cotton, which was not impaired by proof that Kuhn & Brother had fraudulently got possession of the bill; but the court left it to the jury to determine:

1st, whether there was any negligence of the plaintiff or its agents in parting with possession of the bill of lading.

2d, whether Miller & Brother knew any fact or facts from

Page 101 U. S. 559

which they had reason to believe that the bill of lading was held to secure payment of an outstanding draft.

The jury having found the first question in the negative and the second in the affirmative, further found "the value of the goods eloigned" to be $7,015.97, assessed the plaintiff's damages at that sum with costs, for which amount the court entered a judgment. Shaw & Esrey thereupon sued out this writ of error.

The remaining facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

Page 101 U. S. 561

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