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UNITED STATES V. PHELPS, 107 U. S. 320 (1883)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Phelps, 107 U.S. 320 (1883)

United States v. Phelps

Decided March 26, 1883

107 U.S. 320




1. A claim for the appraisement of goods and the reduction of the duty thereon by reason of the damage which they sustained during the voyage of importation may be allowed, although not made until after they were entered at the custom house at their full invoice value and the estimated duties thereon paid. Shelton v. The Collector, 6 Wall. 113, so far as it conflicts with this ruling, is overruled.

2. Section 2328 Rev.Stat. has exclusive reference to goods taken from a wreck.

Phelps Brothers & Co. imported, August, 1876, from foreign parts into the port of New York 5,861 boxes of lemons, the value of which at the market when and where they were purchased was $24,006. The duty on them at twenty percent ad valorem was $4,801.20, the payment of which was admitted by the United States except $1,151.60, to recover which sum this action was brought against the importers in the proper district court of the United States.

The plaintiff having proved the foregoing facts, the defendants offered evidence showing that they, on the day of the importation of the lemons, made an entry thereof at the custom house in New York at their full invoice price, and paid the estimated amount of duty thereon, if they were in sound condition; that within seven days thereafter, the defendants applied for an allowance for damage to the lemons on the voyage, and that after a subsequent examination and appraisement of the damage an allowance was thereupon made, the duties whereon at twenty percent, amounted to $1,151.60, in accordance wherewith the entry was liquidated in October of that year and the United States paid that sum to the defendants.

To this evidence the plaintiff objected on the ground that the damage allowance should have been applied for and the damage ascertained before the entry of the goods; that as the application was not made nor the amount of damage ascertained until after the entry, the proceeding was irregular and without warrant of law, and that the defendants could acquire no benefit or advantage from any allowance made in

Page 107 U. S. 321

pursuance thereof. The court overruled this objection, and admitted the evidence, to which ruling and admission the plaintiff duly excepted.

The plaintiff thereupon requested the court to charge the jury that, as the goods had been entered at the full invoice price in the first instance, and the application for allowance, the examination and appraisement not made, nor the damage ascertained, nor the damage allowance made until after the entry of the goods, the damage allowance was unwarranted by law, and they could not give the defendants any abatement of duties on account of such damage allowance.

The court refused so to charge, and the plaintiff duly excepted.

There was a verdict for the defendants, and the judgment thereon was affirmed by the circuit court. The United States thereupon brought this writ, and assigns for error 1. The defendants' evidence was improperly admitted; 2. the instruction prayed for by the plaintiff should have been given.

Page 107 U. S. 323

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 2928 of the Revised Statutes, a reenactment of section 21 of the Act of March 1, 1823, c. 21, relates alone to merchandise taken from a wreck, and does not in any manner affect the proceedings under sec. 2927, a reenactment of sec. 52 of the Act of March 2, 1799, c. 22, to obtain an appraisement for an abatement of duties on account of damages to goods during a voyage. What was said in Shelton v. The Collector, 5 Wall. 113, 72 U. S. 118, to the contrary of this is disapproved. The subject is so fully and carefully considered in the opinion of the court below that we deem it unnecessary to do more than to refer to the report of the case in 17 Blatchf. 312.

Judgment affirmed.

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