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A. B. Small Co. v. American Sugar Refining Co., 267 U.S. 233 (1925)

A. B. Small Company v. American Sugar Refining Company

No. 101

Argued October 22, 1924

Decided March 2, 1925

267 U.S. 233


1. Written orders for goods, addressed to a sugar refiner, and written acceptances by the latter, compared and construed in the light of the parties' conduct, and held free from variances alleged to prevent their forming completed contracts. P. 267 U. S. 235.

2. In construing a typewritten document, a mistake of the typist by transferring the concluding clause of one sentence to the beginning of the next, thus altering the literal meaning, may be corrected to conform to the context and the sense of the whole and to the conduct of the parties. P. 267 U. S. 236.

3. Section 4 of the Act of August 10, 1917, amended October 22, 1919, known as the Lever Act, which provides that "it shall be unlawful for any person willfully . . . to make any unjust or unreasonable . . . charge in . . . dealing in or with any necessaries," or to agree with another "to exact excessive prices for

Page 267 U. S. 234

any necessaries," and which has been adjudged violative of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment as applied to criminal prosecutions (United States v. Cohen Grocery Co. 255 U. S. 109), is likewise invalid as a test of the validity of a contract for the sale of a commodity (e.g., sugar), because, in either case, the standard of duty set up is so vague and indefinite as really to be no rule or standard at all. Levy Leasing Co. v. Siegel, 258 U. S. 242, distinguished. P. 267 U. S. 237.

4. Section 5 of the Lever Act did not invest the President with general authority to fix the profit which might be taken on sales of sugar, but only with special authority, on finding that a licensee was taking an unreasonable profit, to require that such practice on the part of the licensee be discontinued and to determine what was a reasonable profit to be taken in place of the one condemned. P. 267 U. S. 242.

5. Section 6 of the Lever Act, though prohibiting willful hoarding and also certain acts done for the purpose of unreasonably increasing or diminishing prices, did not prohibit a selling for delivery more than 30 days in the future. P. 267 U. S. 243.

6. The duty of a seller, upon retaking goods for sale on the buyer's account, is to make the resale fairly in a reasonably diligent effort to obtain a good price. P. 267 U. S. 244.

7. Evidence on the part of the buyer of particular sales of like goods by others at higher prices than that obtained by the seller's resale of the goods in question held rightly excluded from the jury both because the seller was not obliged to obtain the best price possible and because the other sales, due to circumstances disclosed, did not tend to establish a standard by which the fairness of the resale could be judged. Id.

8. The duty of a seller to resell goods under a vendor's lien does not arise until he takes possession under it, and the reasonable time permitted for reselling does not begin to run until then. P. 267 U. S. 246.


Error to a judgment of the district court recovered by the plaintiff in an action upon two contracts for the sale of sugar, which the defendant broke by refusing to accept the sugar when delivered.

Page 267 U. S. 235

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