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Southern Pac. Co. v. Joffroy

Supreme Court of Arizona

November 18, 1946


Appeal from Superior Court, Santa Cruz County; Gordon Farley, Judge.

Judgment affirmed.

Knapp, Boyle & Thompson and Arthur Henderson, all of Tucson, for appellant.

Ruffo Espinosa, of Nogales, for appellee.

Morgan, Judge. Stanford, C. J., and La Prade, J., concur.


Morgan, Judge.

[65 Ariz. 66] In August 1944 a New York resident importer, one Carlisle Rountree, doing business as Export Finders Bureau, purchased a car load of Mung beans from one Carlos Tang of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico. After Rountree had ascertained from the Mexican Consul in New York what the import duty would be, he sent his draft to Tang, the seller, through Banco Nacional de Mexico, S.A., Culiacan. Thereupon, Tang delivered the beans f. o. b. railway car, Culiacan, on a straight railway bill of lading of Southern Pacific Railroad Company of Mexico, a Mexican railroad corporation. The bill of lading showed that the beans were consigned to Export Finders Bureau, 8 Bridge Street, New York, U.S.A., with the notation, "C/o Agencia Joffroy" in Nogales, Sonora. The bill of lading did not specifically designate Carlos Tang as the shipper. It merely stated that the beans had been received from him.

Page 279

The purchaser, Rountree, had instructed the Banco Nacional to send the bill of lading to New York by air mail. Instead of this, however, the bank forwarded the bill of lading to the Agencia Joffroy in Nogales, Sonora. The Agencia Joffroy was a customs broker, doing a customs brokerage business in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Plaintiff claimed that Tang, the seller, by letter to Agencia Joffroy, authorized it to handle the crossing of the carload of shipping into the United States. The letter does not support this contention. There is nothing in the record to indicate Tang's authority to make this representation or request of Joffroy. The Agencia passed the shipment of beans through the Mexican and the United States Customs, and paid all expenses for such passage, including the Mexican export charges. The car load of beans moved on Southern Pacific Company (a Kentucky corporation) railroad from Nogales, Arizona, through connecting carriers and a terminal carrier which delivered the shipment to New York.

While the shipment was in transit, however, the customs broker, Agencia Joffroy, and the purchaser, Rountree, entered into a controversy concerning the amount of Mexican export duties which should have been paid on the shipment. The purchaser, Rountree, claiming that the New York Mexican Consul had quoted export duty substantially lower than that paid by the customs broker, informed the customs broker that he would not pay the charges made by the customs broker. The customs broker, Agencia Joffroy, thereupon notified the Southern Pacific Company (appellant) [65 Ariz. 67] to withhold delivery of the shipment until the straight bill of lading was presented by the purchaser. The customs broker sent the straight bill of lading, with draft attached, to a New York bank for collection. The purchaser, Export Finders Bureau, demanded delivery by the railroad in New York of the shipment, and finally, after indemnifying the company, received the shipment of Mung beans.

Thereafter, the customs broker, Agencia Joffroy, filed complaint in the Superior Court of Santa Cruz County, against the Southern Pacific Company, alleging substantially the foregoing facts and praying recovery against the railroad company for its negligence in disregarding the customs broker's instructions to withhold delivery of the shipment of beans from the consignee until the consignee presented the bill of lading, whereby the customs broker lost the $ 1837.26 which it had advanced in covering expenses incurred in the crossing of the car of beans from Mexico into the United States. These moneys advanced did not include any freight charges. The defendant railroad company moved to dismiss the complaint, which motion was denied by the court. Defendant then answered the complaint, and trial was had in which the foregoing facts were substantially shown. The greater part of the evidence was devoted to proof of the correctness of the charges made by the customs broker. At the end of the case the defendant moved for a dismissal of the case, which motion was denied by the court, and a judgment for the full amount sought was rendered in favor of the plaintiff. In due course a motion for new trial was made and overruled, and this appeal was taken.

Substantially defendant's assignments of error and supporting propositions of law present three questions:

1. Do the pleadings and the evidence disclose any contractual relationship between plaintiff and defendant, or any possessory right over the shipment by plaintiff, under and whereby defendant would be obligated to stop the shipment as requested by plaintiff, or which would entitle plaintiff to enforce a stop order against the shipment by notice to defendant?

2. Do the provisions of the Federal Bill of Lading Act, which relieves a carrier from liability for wrongful delivery of shipment unless the carrier has been requested by the person having the right of property or possession in the goods not to make such ...

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