U.S. Supreme Court
The Lady Franklin, 75 U.S. 8 Wall. 325 325 (1868)
The Lady Franklin
75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 325
1. A bill of lading given by a person who was agent of several vessels all alike engaged in transporting goods brought to certain waters by a railway line, but having separate owners, and not connected by any joint undertaking to be responsible for one another's breaches of contract -- the bill, through mistake of the agent, acknowledging that certain goods had been shipped on the vessel A. when in fact, they had been previously shipped on vessel B., and a bill of lading given accordingly -- will not make the vessel A. responsible, the goods having been lost by the vessel B. and the suit being one by shippers of the merchandise against the owner of the vessel A., and the case being thus unembarrassed by any question of a bona fide purchase on the strength of the bill of lading.
2. While a bill of lading, insofar as it is a contract, cannot be explained by parol, yet being a receipt as well as a contract, it may in that regard be so explained, especially when used as the foundation of a suit between the original parties to it.
Appeal from the circuit court for the Northern District of Illinois, in which court King & Co. had libeled the propeller Lady Franklin, for nondelivery of certain flour.
The libel alleged, that the libellants, in the month of November, 1863, by their agent, Edward Sanderson, delivered at Milwaukee, to the steamer Lady Franklin, 340 barrels of flour, to be transported to Port Sarnia, on the St. Clair River, for which shipment they received a bill of lading, but that 290 barrels of the flour were never delivered. As a consequence, they claim a maritime lien on the vessel for the value of the flour.
The answer denied that the flour in controversy was ever delivered to the master or shipped on board of the steamer.
The case was this:
There was in 1863 a line of steamers engaged in the lake service from Milwaukee to Port Sarnia and running in connection with the Grand Trunk Railway. The Lady Franklin was one of them. But each boat had separate owners, and there was no joint undertaking that anyone of the boats should be responsible for the breach of a contract or misconduct of another. This line of steamers had a particular chanrobles.com-red
warehouse in Milwaukee at which they stopped and which was used to receive and store freight for them; one Courtenay was the agent of this warehouse, and he also acted as agent for the boats in engaging and shipping freight. The cargo of flour in dispute, which was owned by the libellants and of which they were the real shippers, was received by Courtenay for them, through Sanderson, their agent, with an agreement to ship it for them on one of this line of steamers, and in point of fact 50 barrels were shipped on the Antelope, one of the line, and received by the libellants. The remaining 290 barrels, for which the lien is claimed on the Franklin, were also shipped on the 7th of November by the Water Witch, another boat in the same line, and consigned to the libellants, but were not received by them, the boat having foundered at sea. Notwithstanding these shipments, a clerk in the warehouse, under Courtenay, in the absence of Courtenay, in ignorance that the flour had been previously shipped on the Antelope and Water Witch, but supposing it still in the warehouse for shipment, by mistake gave to Sanderson, the agent of the libellants, a bill of lading.
Attaching the bill to a draft upon the libellants, for the value of the flour, Sanderson soon afterwards drew on them for this value, and they paid the draft. The flour never arriving, they libeled the Lady Franklin, chanrobles.com-red