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Colonial Cases

Ritter v. Jardine, Matheson and Co., 1887

[sale of goods]

Ritter v. Jardine, Matheson and Co.

Supreme Court for China and Japan
Rennie CJ, 22 July 1887
Source: North China Herald, 22 July 1887

Before Sir R. T. Rennie, H.M.'s Chief Justice.
  The plaintiff in this case sued for the value of a cask of claret shipped from Bordeaux by the Messageries Maritimes and forwarded from Shanghai by one of the defendant company's steamers.  The cask on arrival; in Shanghai had been found to be leaking, and on reaching Tientsin was empty.  The defendant company, before taking delivery in Shanghai, had tried to recover the value from the M.M. Co., but they, relying on a clause in their Bills of Lading exempting them from liability in cases of breakage, refused to acknowledge any responsibility.
  On the arrival of the cask in Tientsin the plaintiff refused to take delivery, and sought to recover the value from the defendants.  The latter denied their responsibility, pleading that they received the cask in a leaky condition, and were not liable for damage which occurred previously to its coming into their hands.
  The facts were mot disputed.  His Lordship in giving judgment, after reciting the facts as given above, said: "The defendants, having received the cask in a leaky condition, and partially emptied, it would certainly be wholly contrary to reason to make them pay for the whole of the wine lost.  If, however, they were to be charged with a portion of the loss, how would it be possible to estimate the amount of such loss?  The cask nay when re-shipped from Shanghai, have been three -quarters full, or only one quarter, or less.  The plaintiff may have his remedy, either against the insurers, if the wine was in fact insured, or, if not, perhaps against the shippers for having used a defective cask; but I cannot go beyond the primary cause of the damage, or hold the defendants liable for damage which in a question like this appears to have resulted from a primary cause.  The petition must therefore be dismissed with costs. - Chinese Times.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School