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Clark v. United States (73 U.S. 543)

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

73 U.S. 543

William Clark  v.  The United States

Appeal from the Court of Claims

No. 116.  Argued: March 20, 1868. --- Decided: April 6, 1868.

APPEAL from the Court of Claims.

The case was thus: Clark entered into a contract with the United States to furnish all the material and make 221,000 cubic yards of embankment at the Navy Yard at Memphis, Tennessee; the embankment to be made in such manner and places as should be directed by the engineer, and finished on or before the 15th of July, 1847. The United States engaged, that for the materials and embankment made, &c., according to the contract, there should be paid, on account of all bills presented for the aforesaid materials and work delivered and executed, 'eighteen cents for every cubic yard.' Ten per cent. was to be withheld from the amount of all payments as collateral security, and a bond given to secure performance.

Clark having brought suit in the Court of Claims to recover a balance which he asserted to be due on this contract, that court found—

'1. That he built 128,913.55 yards of the embankment, for which he had been paid.

'2. That the system of measurements pursued by the officers of the United States, and by which the said quantity of yards was computed, consisted in measuring from a fixed base monthly, and that the claimant at the time objected to the system, contending that he should be paid for the quantity of earth actually deposited by him on the embankment.

'3. That there was a waste and shrinkage of the embankment while building, and a natural settling of the batture on which the embankment was built, and that the loss occasioned thereby necessarily was borne by the claimant under the system of measurements adopted.

'4. That this system was the one customarily used on the public works of the government, and that there was no competent evidence offered to show a contrary custom.

'5. That the officers of the government interfered with the claimant in the execution of his work, compelling him to dump loose earth where it was exposed to the direct currents of the river, and that they also used the embankment as a roadway, to the loss and injury of the claimant, but that all of such acts of which there was sufficient evidence, occurred subsequent to the 15th day of July, 1847, and when the claimant was in default in not having performed his said agreement and completed the said embankment.'

And the court decided:

'That the contract was entire and not severable, and that by the terms thereof the claimant could only recover for the embankment completed and not for the quantity of earth deposited by him therein, and that as a necessary and legal consequence thereof all loss by settling, shrinkage, and the action of the currents of the river, was to be borne by the claimant and not by the United States.

'That the claimant was not entitled to recover for the interference of the defendants or their officers subsequent to the 15th July, 1847, the time when the work under his said contract was to have been completed by the terms of his agreement.'

From this deciso n Clark appealed.

Messrs. Norton and Weed, Solicitor and Assistant Solicitor for the Court of Claims, in support of the decision, contended, by brief filed, that the claimant having contracted to furnish materials, as well as to do the work, all loss, though arising from inevitable accident, was to be borne by him: that it was a case for the maxim, res perit domino. They contended also that the contract was entire, and that the appellant having been bound to complete his work by July 15th, and the United States having had a right to use the place from that day, he could recover nothing unless he showed that the day, he could recover nothing unless he showed that the failure to complete was caused by the United States.

Mr. Hughes, who filed a brief for Mr. McCalla, contra.

Mr. Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).