Southwestern Sugar & Molasses Company, Inc. v. River Terminals Corporation

PETITIONER: Southwestern Sugar & Molasses Company, Inc.
RESPONDENT: River Terminals Corporation
LOCATION: Union Station

DOCKET NO.: 155
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 360 US 411 (1959)
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1959

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Southwestern Sugar & Molasses Company, Inc. v. River Terminals Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1959 (Part 1) in Southwestern Sugar & Molasses Company, Inc. v. River Terminals Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1959 (Part 2) in Southwestern Sugar & Molasses Company, Inc. v. River Terminals Corporation

Selim B. Lemle:

This thing I'm talking about, the sea rates in the Folsom background.

I said sea rate, a special rated commodity.

This is the rate put in where a shipper insists on using his own barges and is a particular kind of carriage, one in which the carriage would prefer not to engage.

They have to because the shipper permitted to furnish his barges and there's a reason for that, any real reason.

The carriers maintain many of them, fleets and barges, 400 to 600 barges and those barges are sitting there empty and available for use, they're not tank barges in this case because the general rule with shippers -- carriers in a -- furnish special purpose barges.

And a shipper gives you a barge.

It gives you a barge under load.

You have to take it.

Literally, you're getting a periodic boat, many of these barges, are really many of them are literally fugitive from a junk pile.

Barges which some of them have been bought from carriers.

Carriers retiring from service many years before and you get a barge, you get it on to load, you can't see it.

The standard barge is 11 feet deep.

You got to put in there, a free board with 9.5 feet of the barge under water, you can't look at it.

You don't know whether it's loaded, rusted, scaly, leaking, rusted, scaly or what it is.

You can't go under the cargo compartments because they're for cargo.

You can't go to direct compartments because they're not gas free.

And you have to take that barge and you have to tour it.So the carrier does the best thing he can.

He said two things.

He says, one, “Yes, I'll take your barge, but it's your risk because I don't know what it is and I can't see what it is when you give it to me under load.”

And number two, “You'll warrant me to me that this barge which you overloaded is properly loaded and is fit and proper for the transportation that we're about to undertake.”

He puts both loads of barges down.

That second clause is quite material, the warranty of seaworthiness and proper load, I submit that it is not at all forbidden by Section 1 of the Harter Act or Section -- or Section 2 of one of the Harter Act says that a carrier owns the vessel (Inaudible) to make it seaworthiness carried over into Section 3.

The carrier is in this instance is not the owner of the barge, the shipper is the owner of the barge.

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Lemle, this is the -- we call it the sea rate A, B and C, and this is the sea rate.

Selim B. Lemle:

Yes.

The sea rate, as I say, is a special low rate.

Potter Stewart:

Now, cover -- covering barges owned by the shipper.

Selim B. Lemle:

Only.

Potter Stewart:

Only.

Selim B. Lemle:

In barges only.