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Venkatesaperumal Chetty Vs. S. Parthasarathy Iyengar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtChennai
Decided On
Judge
Reported in18Ind.Cas.986
AppellantVenkatesaperumal Chetty
RespondentS. Parthasarathy Iyengar
Cases Referred and Jones v. Just L.R.
Excerpt:
construction of contract - exemption from liability--ambiguous or unintelligible clause--measure of damages--goods delivered not equal to sample. - - a great many words would appear to have been added to it without much regard to what they mean or what effect they were likely to have so that it is not possible to give any definite meaning to a good deal of it. the only inference, therefore, is that if this camphor had been sold at once by the plaintiff after taking delivery, it would have realised even a less price and this is distinctly what the defendant himself says in his letters home......in cases of damage to the goods or deterioration of the goods or diminution in quantity of the goods caused by one or the other of the recited causes. now there is no evidence in this case of any damage to the goods, of any deterioration of the goods, of any diminution in quantity of the goods from the time they were shipped. i mean there is no satisfactory evidence. the defendant said something about tin cases having been used instead of zinc, that they might have caused it. in the first place, it is not shown that tin cases were used; there is some evidence the other way. the contract under which the cases were disposed of by the plaintiff mentions zinc cases. in any case, i do not hold the defendant to be a scientific expert of that sort. he is an exceedingly interested witness,.....
Judgment:

Wallis, J.

1. In this case, the plaintiff sues to recover damages for breach of contract by the defendant to sell to the plaintiff 25 cases of artificial synthetic camphor. The cases were taken delivery of by the plaintiff and he alleges that the goods were not according to sample and that he has been damnified accordingly.

2. Two issues have been raised--'Were the goods delivered to the plaintiff not according to sample' and 'are the plaintiffs disentitled from claiming compensation under Clause 12 of the contract?' As to the first point, I think there cannot be any doubt at all that the goods were not according to sample.

3. Now the next question, which arises is whether the defendant is protected by Clause 12 of his contract with the plaintiff. That clause is very unfortunately expressed. A great many words would appear to have been added to it without much regard to what they mean or what effect they were likely to have so that it is not possible to give any definite meaning to a good deal of it. It runs as follows;--'You shall not be responsible for any damages to or deterioration or diminution in quantity of any of the goods, however caused, whether by theft, chafage, difference, inferiority in quality, short delivery or any defect whatsoever caused, made or ascertained after we have taken delivery of the goods.' The language is that the defendant shall not be responsible for any damage to or deterioration or diminution in quantity of any of the goods so that in order to bring the case within the exception, the defendant must show that there has been damage to the goods or deterioration to the goods or diminution in quantity of any of the goods. Then it goes on to say: 'However caused whether by theft, chafage, difference, inferiority in quality, short delivery or any defect whatsoever caused, made or ascertained after we have taken delivery of the goods.' Mr. Srinivasa Iyengar, for the defendant, is anxious to insert after the word 'chafage' the words 'or for any' so that the clause would read 'or for any difference, inferiority in quality, short delivery or any defect whatsoever caused, made or ascertained after we have taken delivery of the goods. If that construction were made, the words 'or for any defect caused, made or ascertained after we have taken delivery of the goods' would be sufficient to cover the cases covered by all the previous words and they would be merely pleonastic. The words 'or for' are not in the clause before the word 'difference' and there is absolutely no justification in the accepted principles of construction for putting them there. Numerous cases have been cited by Mr. Venketasubba Row as to the principles which govern the Court in construing documents of this character. As to the way in which stipulations of this kind derogating from the rights of the parties under the common law should be construed in the cases of vendors and purchasers, he has referred to Seaton v. Mapp 2 Coll. C.C. 556; 63 Eng. Rep. 859 and Rodger v. Cemptior D' Escompte Be Paris L.R. 2 P.C. 393; 21 L.T. 33; 38 L.J.P.C. 30 17 W.R. 468; 5 Moore, P.C.538;16 Eng. Rep. 618. Still more germane are the cases of Burtan v. English 12 Q.B.D. 218; 53 L.J.Q.B. 133; 5 Asp. M. 0. 187 and Elderslie Steamship Company v. Borthwick (1905) A.C.93; 74 L.J.K.B. 338 and Nelson Line v. James Nelson (1908) A.C. 16; 77 L.J.K.B. 82; 97 L. T 812; 13 Com. Cas. 104; 10 Asp. M.C. 581; 24 T.L.R. 114 The general principle appears to be that in mercantile documents any one who wants to make a stipulation derogating from the ordinary law regulating the rights of the parties must do so in clear and unambiguous language. In the Elderslie Steamship Company's Case (1905) A.C.93; 74 L.J.K.B. 338; 53 W.R. 401: 10 Aap. M.C. 10 Com. Cas. 109, Lord Macnaghten says that an ambiguous document is no protection and an ambiguous sentence is no protection and an unintelligible sentence is still less protection. That case brings us to the observations of Lord Loreburn in the Nelson Line v. James Nelson (1908) A.C. 16; 77 L.J.K.B. 82; 97 L. T 812; 13 Com. Cas. 104; 10 Asp. M.C. 581; 24 T.L.R. 114. He says, 'In truth, I think, the clause taken as a whole' and these words apply to the present clause so ill thought out and expressed that it is not possible to feel sure what the parties intended to stipulate.' The law imposes on ship owners and equally on vendors certain duties. They may contract themselves out of these duties but unless they prove such a contract the duties remain and such a contract is not proved by producing language which may mean that and which may mean something different. As Lord Macnaghten said: 'An ambiguous document is no protection; that is the ground on which I rest my opinion.' Then he finds it useless to call the attention of commercial men to the risk they run by using confusing and perplexing language in their business documents. Lord Halsbury sums up the position thus: 'The known condition of the law is that unless protected by protecting clauses, the defendant is liable. He has only put together or jumbled together a number of phrases to which no legal interpretation can be given and the result is that the state of liability under the law remains what it was and the defendant is liable.' If any intelligible construction can be put upon this clause, I hold that it relieves the vendor from liability only in cases of damage to the goods or deterioration of the goods or diminution in quantity of the goods caused by one or the other of the recited causes. Now there is no evidence in this case of any damage to the goods, of any deterioration of the goods, of any diminution in quantity of the goods from the time they were shipped. I mean there is no satisfactory evidence. The defendant said something about tin cases having been used instead of zinc, that they might have caused it. In the first place, it is not shown that tin cases were used; there is some evidence the other way. The contract under which the cases were disposed of by the plaintiff mentions zinc cases. In any case, I do not hold the defendant to be a scientific expert of that sort. He is an exceedingly interested witness, his evidence in other respects did not impress me favourably. I am not prepared to hold, as he might have proved if it were true, that the defect was really due to the camphor being packed in tin cases instead of in zinc cases. It is very strange that there is no hint or suggestion in the pleadings and the suggestion has made its appearance for the first time today. Therefore, I am obliged to hold that the 12th clause of the contract is no protection to the defendant.

4. The only other question that remains is the measure of damages. The evidence is that this artificial and synthetic camphor is of the same quality as and commands as high a price as Japanese BB camphor and a much higher price than Hongkong crude camphor. The plaintiff has shown that on the 1st August which was the date of delivery, there was a difference of more than 6 annas on a 1b. between the price of Japanese BB or synthetic camphor and Hongkong crude camphor and we have the defendant's own statement, which I do not regard as an exaggeration on inspection of the sample produced, that the cases actually supplied were worse than Hongkong crude camphor. The only inference, therefore, is that if this camphor had been sold at once by the plaintiff after taking delivery, it would have realised even a less price and this is distinctly what the defendant himself says in his letters home. He says that the claim for 6 annas is a very reasonable claim and if the goods were sold, they would have fetched a much less price. Sitting here as a jury and applying the rule in Mayne on Damages, 8th Edition, page 228 and Jones v. Just L.R. 2 Q.B. 300 I think that the claim for damages at 6 annas per lb. has been made out. I give judgment for Rs. 1,050 with interest at 9 per cent. per annum from the 1st August 1911 up to this date. The plaintiff will have his costs and further interest at 6 per cent. per annum from this date up to the date of realization.


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