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Supreme Court of the United States
OCTOBER TERM, 1920.
PIEDMONT & GEORGE'S CREEK COAL | Maritime liens - stricti juris - not exCOMPANY, Petitioner,
tended by construction, analogy, or
inference. SEABOARD FISHERIES COMPANY,
3. The maritime lien is a secret one. Claimant, etc.
It may operate to the prejudice of prior mortgagees or purchasers without notice.
It is therefore stricti juris, and will not be (See S. C. Reporter's ed. 1-13.)
extended by construction, analogy, or inferMaritime liens – for supplies - effect (For other cases, see Maritime Liens, II. b, in of use.
Digest Sup. Ct. 1908.) 1. A maritime lien for the unpaid pur
Maritime lien for supplies - by whom chase price of supplies does not arise in fa- furnished, For of the seller merely because the pur- 4. No part of the coal delivered to a chaser, who is the owner of a vessel, sub-corporation owning both factories and a sequently appropriates the supplies to her fleet of fishing steamers, in pursuance of a
contract to furnish such corporation with (For other cases, see Maritime Liens, II, b, in its season's supply, and thereafter by such Digest Sup. Ct. 1908.)
corporation distributed in its discretion to Maritime liens for supplies effect
its vessels and factories, can be said to have of statute.
been furnished by the seller to the vessels 2. The scope of the maritime lien was upon the order of the owner, within the not broadened by the Act of June 23, 1910, meaning of the Act of June 23, 1910, § 1, $ 1, giving a maritime lien upon a vessel for giving a maritime lien upon a vessel for supplies furnished by the seller to the ves: credit was given to the vessel, although the
supplies so furnished without proof that sel upon the order of the owner, proof that credit was given to the vessel, use of the greater part of the coal by the but the purpose of the act was, first, to do vessels of the fleet was a use which was away with the artificial distinction by contemplated by the parties at the time which a maritime lien was given for sup- understood that the law would afford a lien
of the purchase, and although both parties plies furnished to a vessel in a port of a foreign country or state, but was denied (For other cases, see Maritime Liens, II. b, in
on the vessels for the purchase price. where the supplies were furnished in the Digest Sup. Ct. 1908.) home port or state, and, second, to do away Appeal – review of facts - concurrent with the doctrine that when the owner of
findings. & vessel contracts in person for necessaries,
5. Concurrent findings of fact by the or is present in the port when they are or two lower courts in an admiralty cause will dered, it is presumed that the materialmen not be disturbed by the Federal Supreme did not intend to rely on the credit of the Court unless clearly erroneous. vessel, and that hence no lien arises, and, (For other cases, see Appeal and Error, 4931third, to substitute a single Federal statute 4959, in Digest Sup. Ct. 1908.) for the state statutes in so far as they confer liens for repairs, supplies, and ther
[No. 58.) necessaries. (For other cases, see Maritime Lieng, II. b, in Argued March 16 and 17, 1920. Decided Digest Sup. Ct. 1908.)
October 11, 1920.
ON N WRIT of Certiorari to the Unitedcific ships, the circumstances are such
States Circuit Court of Appeals for that this court should imply an agreethe First Circuit to review a decree ment to create a lien on the particular which, reversing a decree of the District ships which actually used the coal, for Court for the District of Rhode Island, the coal used by each. directed the dismissal of libels asserting The Grapeshot, 9 Wall. 129, 19 L. ed. maritime liens. Affirmed.
651; The Ella, 84 Fed. 71; The WorthSee same case below, 165 C. C. A. 40, ington, 70 L.R.A. 353, 66 C. C. A. 555, 253 Fed. 20.
133 Fed. 725; The Kalorama, 10 Wall. The facts are stated in the opinion. 208, 19 L. ed. 942; The Emily Souder,
17 Wall. 666, 21 L. ed. 683; The ValenMr. John M. Woolsey argued the cia, 165 U. S. 264, 271, 41 L. ed. 710, cause, and, with Messrs. Frank Healy, 713, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 323; The PatapF. C. Nicodemus, Jr., and H. Brua sco, 13 Wall. 329, 20 L. ed. 696; The HaCampbell, filed a brief for petitioner:
vana, 54 Fed. 201; The Newport, 107 The Act of June 23, 1910, affords a Fed. 744, 52 C. C. A. 415, 114 Fed. 713. maritime lien for supplies furnished to
Agreements for a general lien such as a vessel, and where coal is delivered to was here shown have frequently had juthe owner of a fleet of vessels, for dis-dicial approval, and the fact that the tribution among the vessels of the fleet supplies have been first charged to the upon an express stipulation that the de- owner on the supplier's books has been livery is made upon the credit of the held immaterial. vessels, and not upon the credit of the
The Patapsco, 13 Wall. 329, 20 L. ed. owner, a lien attaches to each vessel for 696; Lower Coast Transp. Co. v. Gulf the coal actually distributed to and used Ref. Co. 128 C. C. A. 15, 211 Fed. 336;
The Kate, 63 Fed. 707; The' Advance, The Yankee, 147 C. C. A. 593, 233 19 C. C. Á. 194, 38 U. S. App. 344, 72 Fed. 919; Berwind-White Coal Min. Co. Fed. 793; Astor Trust Co. v. E. V. v. Metropolitan S. S. Co. 166 Fed. 782; White & Co. L.R.A.1917E, 526, 154 C. The Kiersage, 2 Curt. C. C. 421, Fed. Cas. C. A. 57, 241 Fed. 57. No. 7,762; The Cora P. White, 243 Fed.
As between the owner of a vessel who 246; The Murphy Tugs, 28 Fed. 429; agrees to give a maritime lien for McRae v. Bowers Dredging Co. 86 Fed. money or supplies and the person fur344.
nishing the money or supplies on the The Lien Act was intended to broad- credit of the vessel, the owner is esen and increase the security of persons topped to deny that the money or supfurnishing supplies to vessels, not to plies were actually used for the vessel. narrow or circumscribe it; and hence
The Worthington, 70 L.R.A. 353, 66 should have an enlightened construction C. C. A. 555, 133 Fed. 725; The Mary to meet modern needs.
Chilton, 4 Fed. 847; The Robert Dollar, The Oceana, 156 C. C. A. 508, 244 | 115 Feb. 218; United Hydraulic CottonFed. 80.
Press Co. v. The Alexander McNeil, 20 It is not necessary, in order to im- Int. Rev. Rec. 175, Fed. Cas. No. 14,press a maritime lien on a vessel, that 404; The Mary, 1 Paine, 671, Fed. Cas. the supplies be actually delivered on No. 9,187; The Yankee, 147 C. C. A. board the vessel by the person who sup- 593, 233 Fed. 919; The Kiersage, 2 Curt. plies them.
C. C. 421, Fed. Cas. No. 7,762. Ammon v. The Vigilancia, 58 Fed. 698; Delaware & H. Canal Co. v. The Mr. Philip L. Miller argued the cause, Alida, 23 Betts' D. C. Mss. 139, Fed. and Mr. Royall Victor filed a brief for Cas. No. 3,763a; The James H. Pren- respondent: tice, 36 Fed. 777.
Apart from the evidence concerning An owner may by agreement, express the alleged agreement to give credit to or implied, create a maritime lien on his the vessels, there was clearly no furvessel for supplies furnished.
nishing to the vessels within the meanThe Kalorama, 10 Wall. 208, 19 L. ed. ing of the Act of June 23, 1910. 942; The Cimbria, 214 Fed. 128; The The Vigilancia, 58 Fed. 698; The New Alaskan, 142 C. C. A. 226, 227 Fed. 594; Federal Statute Relating to Liens on The George Dumois, 15 C. C. A. 675, 30 Vessels, 24 Harvard L. Rev. 182, 200; U. S. App. 318, 68 Fed. 926; The For The Geisha, 200 Fed. 865, 868; The tuna, 213 Fed. 284; The South Coast, Cimbria, 156 Fed. 378; The Cora P. 159 C. C. A. 302, 247 Fed. 84.
White, 243 Fed. 246; Ely Murray & Even though there had been no ex- T. Co. 118 C. C. A. 520, 200 Fed. 368; press agreement to furnish coal for spe- | The Bethulia, 200 Fed. 876.
The evidence as to the alleged agree- , steamers. It owned also factories at ment for a credit to the vessels cannot Promised Land, Long Island, and Tiver: serve to give petitioner a lien under the ton, Rhode Island, to which the fish caught Act of 1910.
were delivered and at which its vessels The Vigilancia, supra; The Cimbria, coaled. When the fishing season of 1914 156 Fed. 378.
opened, the company was financially emThe record does not permit petitioner barrassed. Its steamers and factories had to claim a nonstatutory lien under an been mortgaged to secure an issue of express contract of general maritime bonds. Bills for supplies theretofore furhypothecation. The evidence is insuffi- nished remained unpaid. The company cient to establish any such contract. had neither money nor credit. It could Even if such a contract had been made, not enter upon the season's operations it would not have created a maritime unless some arrangement should be made lien on the vessels.
to supply its vessels and factories with Astor Trust Co. v. E. V. White & Co. coal. After some negotiations, the PiedL.R.A.1917E, 526, 154 C. C. A. 57, 241 mont & George's Creek Coal Company, Fed. 57; The Cora P. White, 243 Fed. then a creditor for coal delivered during 246; Munn v. The Columbus, 65 Fed. the year 1913, agreed to furnish the Oil 430; The Knickerbocker, 83 Fed. 843; Corporation such coal as it would require The Alligator, 161 Fed. 37; The New- during the season of 1914,—the underport, 52 C. C. A. 415, 114 Fed. 713; standing of the parties being that the Plummer v. Webb, 4 Mason, 388, Fed. coal to be delivered would be used by the Cas. No. 11,233; The James T. Furber, factories as well as by the vessels, that 129 Fed. 812; The Allianca, 65 Fed. the greater part would be used by the 245; The Advance, 71 Fed. 987; The vessels, that the law would afford a lien Cimbria, 156 Fed. 378; Berton v. Tiet- on the vessels for the purchase price of jen & L. Dry Dock Co. 219 Fed. 763; the coal, and that the Coal Company The Harvey & Henry, 30 C. C. A. 330, would thus have security. Shipments of 57 U. S. App. 41, 86 Fed. 657; Pacific coal were made under this agreement Surety Co. v. Leatham & S. Towing & from time to time during the spring and Wrecking Co. 80 C. C. A. 670, 151 Fed. summer, as ordered by the Oil Corpora440; The Pennsylvania, 83 C. C. A. 139, tion. In the autumn receivers for the 154 Fed. 9; Diefenthal v. Hamburg- corporation were appointed by the disAmericanische Packetfahrt Actien-Ge-trict court of the United States for the sellschaft, 46 Fed. 397; Steamship district of Rhode Island, and later a suit Overdale Co. v. Turner, 206 Fed. 339. was brought to foreclose the mortgage
By dispensing with the necessity of upon the vessels and factories. At the proving credit to vessels the Act of time the receivers were appointed five 1910 at once enlarges the scope of mari-cargoes of coal, shipped unde the above time liens and simplifies the law. To agreement, had not been paid for. The dispense with the necessity of a mari- ; Coal Company libeled twelve of the steamtime delivery would throw the law into ers, asserting maritime liens for the price confusion and open the door to many and value of either all the coal, or of such fraudulent and collusive claims. Mari-parts as had been used by the libeled time liens are stricti juris. The pe- vessels respectively.  Meanwhile, titioner's complaints of the hardship of the vessels were sold under the decree of the decision below are the complaints foreclosure. The Seaboard Fisheries of a favorite of the law asking for fur- Company became the purchaser, and, inther favors. The hardships, moreover, tervening as claimant in the lien proceedare largely fanciful.
ings, denied liability. The district court The Larch, 2 Curt. C. C. 427, Fed. Cas. held that the Coal Company had a mariNo. 8,085; Munn v. The Columbus, 65 time lien on each vessel for the coal reFed. 430; Prince v. Ogdensburg Trans-ceived by it. The William B. Murray, it Co. 107 Fed. 978; The Aurora, 194 240 Fed. 147. The circuit court of apFed. 559; The Dredge A, 217 Fed. 617; peals reversed these decrees with costs Astor Trust Co. v. E. V. White & Co. and directed that the libels be dismissed. L.R.A.1917E, 526, 154 C. C. A. 57, 241 The Walter Adams, 165 C. C. A. 40, 253 Fed. 57; The Cora P. White, 243 Fed. Fed. 20. Then this court granted the 246.
Coal Company's petition for a writ of
certiorari. 248 U. S. 556, 63 L. ed. 419,  Mr. Justice Brandeis elivered 39 Sup. Ct. Rep. 12. the opinion of the court:
As to the facts proved, there is no disThe Atlantic Phosphate & Oil Corpora- agreement between the two lower courts. tion owned a fleet of nineteen fishing | The substantial question presented is 65 L. ed.
whether these facts constitute a furnish-Land—which received four of the five ing of supplies by the Coal Company to shipments—the bins already contained the vessels upon order of the owner, other coal (1,068 tons) which had been within the provisions of the Act of June theretofore purchased by the Oil Cor23, 1910 (chap. 373, § 1, 36 Stat. at L. poration and had been paid for. With 604, Comp. Stat. § 7783, 9 Fed. Stat. this coal on hand that delivered by libelAnno. 2d ed. p. 346).1 That coal was lant was commingled. At each plant both furnished to the vessels to the extent to the vessels and the factory were, from which they severally received it on board time to time, supplied with coal from the is clear. The precise question, therefore, same bins; but the greater part of the is: Was the coal furnished by the libel coal supplied from each plant was used lant, the Coal Company, or was it fur- by the vessels. Weeks, and in some innished by the Oil Corporation, the owner stances months, elapsed between placing of the fleet? In determining this ques- the coal in the bins and the delivery of it tion additional facts must be considered: by the corporation to the several vessels.
No coal was delivered by the Coal Com- When it made such deliveries it furnished pany directly to any vessel; and it had coal to the vessels, as it did to the facno dealings of any kind concerning the tories, not under direction of the Coal coal directly with the officers of any ves- Company, but in its discretion, as owner sel. All the coal was billed by the Coal of the coal and of the business. Company to the Oil Corporation, and The quantity of coal delivered to each there was no reference on any invoice, vessel was  proved; but to what or on its books, either to the fleet or to extent the coal supplied to the sevany vessel. There  was no uuder- eral vessels which bunkered at Prom. standing between the companies when ised Land came from the 1,068 tons the agreement to supply the coal was previously purchased, and to what exmade or when the coal was deliv- tent it came from the lots purchased ered that any part of it was spe- from the Coal Company, it was imcifically for any one of the several possible to determine. In making the vessels libeled, or that it was for any computations which formed the basis of particular vessel of the fleet, or even the decrees in the district court it was for the vessels then composing the assumed that of the coal supplied to the fleet. Indeed, the first shipment was several vessels which bunkered at Promstated on the invoice to be "coal for fac- ised Land, a proportionate part of that tory." The negotiations of the Oil Cor- received by each had come from the coal poration with the Coal Company did not purchased from libellant. relate to coal required at that time by The Coal Company contends on these the particular vessels subsequently libeled, facts that it furnished necessary supplies as distinguished from other vessels.of the to the several ve vels within the meaning fleet.
of § 1 of the Act of June 23, 1910. But The coal was sold f. o. b. at the Coal the facts show that no coal was furnished Company's piers, which were at St. by that company to any vessel "upon orGeorge, Staten Island, and Port Reading, der of the owner.” The title to the coal New Jersey. At these piers it was loaded had passed to the Oil Corporation when on barges, which were towed either to the it was loaded on board the barges at the Oil Corporation's plant at Promised Coal Company's piers. It was delivered Land, or to that at Tiverton. Some of to Promised Land and Tiverton as the Oil these barges were supplied by the Oil Cor- Corporation's coal, and placed in its bins. poration, some by the Coal Company. If As its coal the later distribution was made supplied by the latter, trimming and in its discretion to vessels and factories. towing charges were added to the agreed A large part of the coal so acquired by the price of the coal. Upon arrival of the Oil Corporation for use in its business coal at the factories, it was placed in was subsequently appropriated by it spethe Oil Corporation's bins. At Promised cifically to the use of the several vessels 1 Act of June 23, 1910, chap. 373, $ 1: vessels of the fleet was a use which had
of the fleet, and this use of the coal by "Any person furnishing repairs, supplies, or other necessaries, including the use of dry been contemplated by the parties when dock or marine railway, to a vessel, whether it was purchased. But the fact that such foreign or domestic, upon the order of the a use had been contemplated does not renowner or owners of such vessel, or of a per: der the subsequent appropriation by the son by him or them authorized, shall have a maritime lien on the vessel which may be owner a furnishing by the coal dealer to enforced by a proceeding in rem, and it shall the several vessels. not be necessary to allege or prove that
To hold that a lien for the unpaid puroredit was given to the vessel.”
chase price of supplies arises in favor of the seller merely because the purchaser, afford a lien on the vessels for the coal, who is the owner of a vessel, subsequently is, in this controversy, without legal sigappropriates the supplies to her use, nificance. If the coal had been furnished would involve abandonment of the prin- to the several vessels by the libellant, ciple upon which maritime liens rest, and maritime liens would have arisen and the substitution therefor of the very dif- could have been established under the ferent principle  which underlies me- statute without proof that credit was chanics and materialmen's liens on houses given to the vessels. Since the libellant and other structures. The former had its did not furnish any coal to the vessels, origin in desire to protect the ship; the the erroneous belief of the parties that latter mainly in desire to protect those the law would afford a lien either for all who furnish work and materials. The the coal furnished to the Oil Corporation, maritime lien developed as a necessary or for that delivered by it to the several incident of the operation of vessels. The vessels, could not create a lien under the ship's function is to move from place to statute. Clearly no maritime lien could place. She is peculiarly subject to vicis- arise therefrom, valid as against the situdes which would compel abandonment claimant, which had acquired title to the of vessel or voyage, unless repairs and vessels under a mortgage antedating the supplies were promptly furnished. Since purchase. Astor Trust Co. v. E. V. White she is usually absent from the home port, & Co. L.R.A.1917E, 526, 154 C. C. A. remote from the residence of her owners, 57, 241 Fed. 57. and without any large amount of money, The difficulty which confronts the Coal it is essential that she should be self-re- Company does not lie in the fact that the liant,--that she should be able to obtain contract for the coal was made with the upon her own account needed repairs and Oil Corporation. A vessel may be made supplies. The recognition by the law of liable in rem for supplies, although the such inherent power did not involve any owner can be made liable therefor in pernew legal conception, since the ship had sonam; since the dealer may rely upon been treated in other connections as an en- the credit of both. The Bronx, 159 C. tity capable of entering into relations with C. A. 111, 246 Fed. 809. Likewise, the others, of acting independently, and of fact that the coal which was supplied to becoming responsible for her acts. Be- the several vessels had been purchased cause the ship's need was the source of under a single contract presents no diffithe maritime lien, it could arise only if culty. For, while one vessel of a fleet the repairs or supplies were necessary; cannot be made liable under the statute if the pledge of her credit was necessary for supplies furnished to the others, even to the obtaining of them; if they were if the supplies are furnished to all upon actually obtained; and if they were fur- orders of the owner under a single connished upon her credit. The mechanic's tract (The Columbus, 65 Fed. 430, 14 C. and materialman's lien, on the other hand, C. A. 522, 28 U. S. App. 399, 67 Fed. 553; attaches ordinarily although the labor and The (11] Newport, 52 C. C. A. 415, 114 material cannot be said to have been Fed. 713; The Alligator, 88 C. C. A. 201, necessary; although at the time they were 161 Fed. 37; Astor Trust Co. v. E. V. furnished there was no thought of obtain- White & Co. L.R.A.1917E, 526, 154 C. ing security upon the building; and al- C. A. 57, 241 Fed. 57, 61), each vessel so though the credit of the owner or of others receiving supplies may be made liable had in fact been relied upon. The prin- for the supplies furnished to it (The ciple upon which the mechanic's lien rests Murphy Tugs, 28 Fed. 429). The diffiis, in a sense, that of unjust enrichment. culty which, under the general maritime Ordinarily, it is the equity arising from law, would have blocked recovery by the assumed enhancement in value resulting Coal Company, is solely that it did not from work or materials expended upon the furnish coal to the vessels upon which it property without payment therefor which asserts a maritime lien; and there is nothis laid hold of to protect workmen anding in the Act of June 23, 1910, which others who, it is assumed, are especially removes that obstacle. deserving, would ordinarily fail  It is urged by the Coal Company that to provide by agreement for their own it was the intention of Congress in passprotection, and would often be unable ing the act to broaden the scope of the to do so.
maritime lien, and that the construction The fact found by the lower courts, of the act adopted by the circuit court of that the parties understood the law would l appeals renders the statute inoperative in
2 Compare Van Stone v. Stillwell & B. Warner, 4 Watts & S. 223, 226; Bolton v. Mfg. Co. 142 U. S. 128, 136, 35 L. ed. 961, Johns, 5 Pa. 145, 150, 47 Am. Dec. 404; 964, 12 Sup. Ct. Rep. 181. See O'Conner v. Taggard v. Buckmore, 42 Me. 77, 81; Buck