J I MacWilliam Co. v. Mediterranean Shipping Co. SA, (2005) 331 N.R. 201 (HL)

Case DateFebruary 16, 2005
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(2005), 331 N.R. 201 (HL)

JI MacWilliam Co. v. Mediterranean Shipping (2005), 331 N.R. 201 (HL)

MLB headnote and full text

Temp. Cite: [2005] N.R. TBEd. FE.038

J I MacWilliam Company Inc. (respondents) v. Mediterranean Shipping Company SA (appellants)

([2005] UKHL 11)

Indexed As: J I MacWilliam Co. v. Mediterranean Shipping Co. SA

House of Lords

London, England

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Steyn, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood

February 16, 2005.

Summary:

In January 1990, four containers of print­ing machinery were damaged in the course of their carriage by sea from Felixstowe, U.K., to Boston, U.S.A. The contract was evi­denced by a straight bill of lading (i.e., a bill of lading providing for delivery of goods to a named consignee and not to order or as­signs or bearer, and so not transferable by endorsement). J I MacWilliam Co. of Boston (the buyer) sued Mediterranean Shipping Co. (the carrier). The buyer argued that the con­tract for the carriage was covered by "a bill of lading or any similar document of title" within the meaning of s. 1(4) of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (U.K.) 1971 and art. I(b) of the Hague-Visby Rules such that the buyer's claim was governed by the financial limits prescribed in art. IV rule 5 of the Hague-Visby Rules (i.e., resulting in a claim of $150,000 US). The carrier argued that the claim was governed by the limits laid down in s. 4(5) of the United States Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1936 (i.e., the claim was limited to $2,000 US). At issue was whether a straight bill of lading was "a bill of lading or any similar docu­ment of title" within the meaning of the 1971 Act and art. I(b) of the Hague-Visby Rules. The matter went to arbi­tra­tion. The arbitrators held that a straight bill of lading did not fall within s. 1(4) of the 1971 Act and art. I(b) of the Hague-Visby Rules. A commercial judge agreed with the arbitrators, but the Court of Appeal reached a different conclu­sion, hold­ing that the straight bill of lading was gover­ned by the 1971 Act and the Hague-Visby Rules. The carrier appealed.

The House of Lords dismissed the appeal.

Shipping and Navigation - Topic 1944

Carriage of goods - Bill of lading - Effect of - Straight bill of lading - In January 1990, four containers of printing machin­ery were damaged in the course of their car­riage by sea from Felixstowe, U.K., to Boston, U.S.A. - The contract was evi­denced by a straight bill of lading (i.e., a bill of lading providing for delivery of goods to a named consignee and not to or­der or assigns or bearer, and so not trans­ferable by endorsement) - The buyer sued the carrier, arguing that the contract for the carriage was covered by "a bill of lading or any similar document of title" within the meaning of s. 1(4) of the Car­riage of Goods by Sea Act (U.K.) 1971 and art. I(b) of the Hague-Visby Rules such that the buyer's claim was governed by the financial limits pre­scribed in art. IV rule 5 of the Hague-Visby Rules (i.e., resulting in a claim of $150,000 US) - The carrier ar­gued that the claim was governed by the limits laid down in s. 4(5) of the United States Car­riage of Goods by Sea Act 1936 (i.e., the claim was limited to $2,000 US) -The House of Lords held that a straight bill of lading was "a bill of lading or any similar document of title" within the mean­ing of the 1971 Act and art. I(b) of the Hague-Visby Rules.

Shipping and Navigation - Topic 2663

Carriage of goods - Liability - Limitations - Hague and Hague-Visby Rules - Scope of application - [See Shipping and Navi­gation - Topic 1944 ].

Cases Noticed:

El Greco (Australia) Pty. Ltd. v. Mediter­ranean Shipping Co. SA, [2004] F.C.A.F.C. 202; [2004] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 537 (Aus. F.C.), refd to. [para. 4].

Sanders Brothers v. Maclean & Co. (1883), 11 Q.B.D. 327, refd to. [para. 4].

Ship Marlborough Hill v. Alex Cowan and Sons Ltd., [1921] 1 A.C. 444, refd to. [para. 4].

Kum et al. v. Wah Tat Bank Ltd., [1971] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 439, refd to. [para. 5].

Homburg Houtimport BV v. Agrosin Pri­vate Ltd. - see Ship Starsin, Re.

Ship Starsin, Re, [2004] 1 A.C. 715; 307 N.R. 100; [2003] UKHL 12, refd to. [para. 6].

Gyn Mills Currie & Co. v. East and West India Dock Co. (1880), 6 Q.B.D. 475, (1882), 7 App. Cas. 591, refd to. [para. 6].

Stag Line Ltd. v. Foscolo, Mango & Co., [1932] A.C. 328, refd to. [paras. 7, 44].

Fothergill v. Monarch Airlines Ltd., [1981] A.C. 251, refd to. [para. 7].

Lickbarrow v. Mason (1787), 2 T.R. 63, additional reasons (1794), 5 T.R. 683 (H.L.), refd to. [paras. 9, 59, 69].

Henderson (C.P.) & Co. v. Comptoir d'Es­compte de Paris (1873), L.R. 5 P.C. 253 (P.C.), refd to. [paras. 10, 43, 61].

Thrige v. United Shipping Co. (1923), 16 Lloyd's Rep. 198; (1924), 18 Lloyd's Rep. 6 (C.A.), refd to. [paras. 11, 63].

Ship Stettin, Re (1889), 14 P.D. 142, refd to. [para. 13].

Yare (Duke), Re (April 10, 1997), ARR-RechtB Rotterdam (Dutch Ct.), refd to. [para. 21].

Voss (Peer) v. APL Co., [2002] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 707 (Singapore C.A.), refd to. [paras. 21, 45, 63].

Pyrene v. Scindia, [1954] 2 Q.B. 402, refd to. [paras. 38, 55].

Hansson v. Hamel & Horley Ltd., [1921] Lloyd's List L.R. 432, affd. [1922] 2 A.C. 36 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 39].

Ship Happy Ranger, Re, [2001] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 530, revd. [2002] Lloyd's Rep. 357 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 64].

Powell v. Kempton Park Racecourse Co., [1899] A.C. 143, refd to. [para. 66].

Dunlop & Co. v. Lambert (1839), 1 Macl. & Rob. 663 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 68].

Sewell v. Burdick (1884), 10 App. Cas. 74 (H.L.), affing. (1884), 13 Q.B.D. 159 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 69].

Statutes Noticed:

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 1971 (U.K.), sect. 1(4) [para. 1 et seq]; Hague-Visby Rules, art I(b) [para. 1 et seq].

Hague-Visby Rules - see Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (U.K.).

Authors and Works Noticed:

Abbott, Charles, A Treatise of the Law Relative to Merchant Ships and Seamen (7th Ed. 1844), p. 325 [para. 67].

Abbott, Charles, A Treatise of the Law Relative to Merchant Ships and Seamen (14th Ed. 1901), p. 843, fn. (u) [para. 63].

Abbott, Charles, A Treatise of the Law Relative to Merchant Ships and Seamen (5th Ed. 1827), pp. 214, 215, 216, 383 [para. 60].

Bell, Commentaries on the Law of Scot­land (3rd Ed. 1821), vol. 1, pp. 453, 454, fn. 3 [para. 60].

Bell, Commentaries on the Law of Scot­land (7th Ed. 1870), vol. 1, pp. 590, 591, fn. 5 [para. 60].

Debattista, Charles, Straight Bills Come In From the Cold - Or Do They? (April 23, 2003), Lloyd's List, p. 6 [para. 49].

Gaskell, Bills of Lading: Law and Con­tracts (2000), pp. 727 to 733 [para. 5].

Goren and Forrester, The German Com­mercial Code (1979), arts. 445(1)4, 447(1), 448, 450 [para. 13].

Proctor, The Legal Role of the Bill of Lading, Sea Waybill and Multimodal Transport Document (1997), pp. 25, 26 [para. 9].

Schmitthoff's Export Trade: The Law and Practice of International Trade (10th Ed. 2000), pp. 276 [para. 48]; 281, para. 15-033 [para. 46].

Scrutton, Charterparties and Bills of Lad­ing (12th Ed. 1925), pp. 486, 487 [para. 8]; Appendix IV [para. 56].

Scrutton, Charterparties and Bills of Lad­ing (20th Ed. 1996), pp. 184, art. 94 [para. 63]; 404, 405 [para. 8].

Sturley, Michael F., The Legislative His­tory of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act and the Travaux Préparatoires of the Hague Rules (1990), vol. 1, pp. 1 to 23 [para. 8].

Tenterden, in Abbott, Charles, A Treatise of the Law Relative to Merchant Ships and Seamen (5th Ed. 1827), pp. 214, 215, 216, 383 [para. 60].

Tiberg, Legal Qualities of Transport Docu­ments (1998), 23 Mar. Law 1, generally [para. 43]; pp. 8, 10, 13 [para. 15]; 32 [paras. 13, 15]; 43, 44 [para. 15].

Treitel, Guenter, The Legal Status of Straight Bills of Lading (2003), 119 L.Q.R. 608, pp. 611 [para. 49]; 620 [para. 24].

United Kingdom, Law Reform Commis­sion, Report No. 196, Rights of Suit in respect of Carriage of Goods by Sea (March 1991), H.C. 250, paras. 2.50 [paras. 22, 50]; 4.10 to 4.12 [para. 50].

Counsel:

Not disclosed.

Agents:

Not disclosed.

This appeal was heard by Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Steyn, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, of the House of Lords. The decision of the House was delivered on February 16, 2005, when the following opinions were filed:

Lord Bingham of Cornhill - see paragraphs 1 to 25;

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead - see para­graph 26;

Lord Steyn - see paragraphs 27 to 52;

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry - see paragraphs 53 to 78;

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood - see paragraph 79.

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