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Liability of a Steamship Company.


At tho Auckland Resident Magistrate's Court on Thursday, Dr Giles gave judgment m the CMse of Spencer v. the Union S.S. Co., an action to recover £5 5s for short delivery of goods. The case had been heard at the sitting of the Court last week, when Mr Baume appeared for the plaintiff and Mr J. P. Campbell for the defence. His Worship's judgment, which was for plaintiff, is as follows :—This is an action against the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand for damages arising from short delivery on a consignment of oranges shipped at Vavau for delivery to plaintiff m Auckland. The parties havcagreed upon the amount tio be awarded to tho plaintiff m the alternate event of judgment being m his favor or against him i upon the questions submitted to the Court. Those questions are :—l. What is the construction to placed upon one of the conditions m the bill of lading 1 2. If the conditions mean what the defsn- . dants contend that it means, is it a reasonable condition ?" The condition is as follows : —"ln settlement of any claim for loss of, or damage to, any of the within-mentioned goods, said claim shall be restricted to the cash value of such goods at the port of discharge at the date of discharge, provided such value does not exceed the cash value at shipping port at the date of shipment, with actual costs added." The question is""What'is the force of this proviso ? It does not say " provided that the price to be paid shall not exceed the cash value at shipping port," and the strictly grammatical sense of the passage is that the claim is to be restricted to the cash value at the port of discharge, unless that value exceeds the cash Value at the shipping port, m which case no such restriction is imposed, and the case m one not provided for by the conditions. It is absurd to suppose that the defendants meant the condition m this sense when they framed it; but yet it is the grammatical sense,' and since they were framing conditions for their own benefit, and m derogation of the plaintiff's rights at common law, it is difficult t» see why the plaintiff should not be permitted to hold them to the grammatical meaning of their own words, even though the clause so construed might as well have been left out altogether. The defendants, on the other hand, contend that the condition means that they shall not be called upon to pay more than the value of the goods at the shipping port,'with actual costs, but that they may pay less than this if the price is less at the port of discharge ; that is to say, that of two possible prices they are always to pay the lowest. The question is whether this is a reasonable condition. It is settled I»av that the liability of carriers is for the value of goods at the place of destination, and not at the place of delivery to the carrier. Now, the condition m question, as understood by the defendants, would mean that although goods might be lost by their negligence, yet they should not be required to pay that amount of compensation to the aggrieved party which the law says he is entitled to. I think such j a condition is unreasonable, and therefore illegal. It is clearly established that a carrier cannot exempt himself from responsibility for negligence, but the condition now set up by the defendants would have the effect of exempting them— at all events to a considerate extent — from the consequences of their negligence, since the law is that the value of the goods at the shipping port is not an adequate measure of damages. I think that the condition, as printed, does not mention what the defendants contend, and that if it did it would be an unreasonable condition. •wSs*i Mr Campbell asked:,for leave to appeal, »d the request was granted. *J? ;

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Bibliographic details

Liability of a Steamship Company., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2481, 2 August 1890

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Liability of a Steamship Company. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2481, 2 August 1890

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