Sweeny v. United States
APPEAL from the Court of Claims; the case being thus:
One Sweeny, owner of a steamer, chartered her at Louisville, March 3d, 1863, to the United States (the assistant quartermaster of the military department where she was, signing the charter-party in behalf of the government), at $175 per day; no term of service being specified. On the 10th the per diem was increased, in writing, to $200, and was so paid till the 20th March. In that month she was ordered and went into another military department; and came under the control of an assistant quartermaster at St. Louis, Captain Parsons, under whose control she remained till the 17th of September, when she was discharged.
It was not conceded by Captain Parsons that the steamer was retained in the service under the charter-party. On the contrary, her account was stated by him on the 15th of September, 1863 (running from the 21st of March to the 31st of July, 1863), at $140 a day. This account was paid by him, and receipted for by the owner of the boat on the 22d of October following. Subsequent accounts for subsequent services were also stated and paid by Captain Parsons, and receipted for by the owners of the boat, none of which accounts or receipts referred in terms to any charter-party. The owner remonstrated at the rate allowed, and, on the 19th of December, 1863, a settlement was made with him by Captain Parsons, by allowing to him, from the 21st of March to the 31st of August, $5 per day, which amount was received and receipted for by the claimant, 'as in full of the above account,' being the account for the steamer's services.
But no release under seal was executed by the claimant, nor was any other consideration given by the government than that expressed of $5 per day for the term named.
Sweeny now filed a petition in the Court of Claims, asking for compensation at the charter rate of $200 per day for the one hundred and eighty-one days, between the 20th of March and the 17th of September.
The Court of Claims dismissed the petition on the ground that the demand of the claimant was a doubtful and disputed claim, which might be the subject of a valid parol compromise, and that the payment of the $5 a day for the term named, constituted a valid and binding compromise, which barred the claimant's action. From this action of the Court of Claims the owner of the vessel appealed.
Mr. James Hughes, for the appellant; Mr. C. H. Hill, Assistant Attorney-General, contra.
Mr. Justice CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.