Clark v. United States (95 U.S. 539)
APPEAL from the Court of Claims.
This is a claim against the United States for the value of a steamer lost in the government service in September, 1865, and for her use for eight days before the loss occurred, at $150 per day.
The Court of Claims found the following facts:--
1. In September, 1865, at Brownsville, Texas, the claimant and Major O. O. Potter, an officer in the Quartermaster's Department, entered into an oral agreement, with the approval of General Steele, commanding the western division of Texas. The agreement was that the Quartermaster's Department should pay the claimant $150 a day for the use of the steamer 'Belle;' but no specific contract was made, or to be made, as to time, until she had made a trial trip from Brownsville to Ringgold Barracks and return, to prove her ability to perform the service for which the Quartermaster's Department needed a steamer; and, if she made a satisfactory trial trip, the parties were then to enter into a formal written contract for her future use at the same price per day. It was also at the same time agreed orally that the Quartermaster's Department was to run the steamer on her trial trip at the expense of the government, and that if she were lost on her trial trip the government should pay for her whatever three disinterested men should estimate her value to be.
2. Under this agreement the claimant delivered the steamer to the Quartermaster's Department, at Brownsville. The quartermaster then put his own captain and crew on the vessel, and sent her to Ringgold Barracks. On her voyage, while thus in the service of the government, she was wrecked, and proved a total loss. Three disinterested persons were then agreed upon and requested by Major Potter and the claimant to appraise the value of the vessel. They so acted, and, by a written award, found the vessel to be of the value of $60,000. The claimant has also proved by evidence other than the award that $60,000 was the reasonable value of the vessel. The steamer was in the service of the government before her loss eight days. The United States has not paid for the value of the vessel nor for her service.
3. The steamer 'Belle' was previously owned by, and in the military possession of, the Confederate government. The claimant acquired his title to her about the year 1863, taking her in part payment of a claim he held for supplies furnished by him to the Confederate Quartermaster's Department. At the time she was chartered by Major Potter, as set forth in the first finding, she was in the claimant's possession as alleged owner, and she was also in Mexican waters, beyond the jurisdiction of the United States.
Upon these facts the claim was dismissed.
The claimant then brought the case here.
Mr. Enoch Totten for the appellant.
The Solicitor-General, contra.
MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.