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CROSSMAN v. LURMAN

January 11, 1904

CROSSMAN
v.
LURMAN



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, Brown, White, Peckham, McKenna, Holmes, Day

Author: White

[ 192 U.S. Page 193]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

The law of the State of New York contained the following:

"SEC. 41. Adulterations. -- No person shall within the State manufacture, produce, compound, brew, distill, have, sell or offer for sale any adulterated food or drug. An article shall be deemed to be adulterated within the meaning of this act: . . . in the case of food, . . . (6) if it be colored or coated, or polished, or powdered, whereby damage is concealed, or it is made to appear better than it really is, or of greater value." Laws of the State of New York of 1893, c. 661, section 41, being chapter 25 of the General Laws of the State of New York.

With these provisions in force, in July, 1894, the firm of Crossman & Brothers, hereafter referred to as the sellers, residents of New York city, by contract made in New York, sold to the firm of Theodore G. Lurman & Company, hereafter referred to as the buyers, residents of Baltimore, five hundred bags of Rio coffee, one-half the bags to be No. 8 grade and the other half No. 9 grade. It was stipulated that the coffee was to be shipped from Rio Janeiro to New York city by a designated steamer, the coffee to be sound or to be made sound by the sellers. The grades 8 and 9 referred to in the memorandum of sale were standard types, bearing those numbers, established by the Coffee Exchange of the city of New York, and it was agreed that the coffee was to be of the average of such types, and differences arising on the subject were to be determined by a "grader," to be selected by each of the parties, the two to select a third in the event of a disagreement, his decision to be conclusive. It was stipulated that on the arrival of the steamer and the storage of the coffee in New York the buyers were to have the advantage of the first month's storage and fire insurance, free of expense.

[ 192 U.S. Page 194]

     In due time the named steamer reached the port of New York, and the five hundred bags of coffee were stored and delivery tendered in New York city to the buyers. Some of the coffee was accepted and the remainder was rejected, on the ground that it was adulterated, because it had been artificially colored by coating the beans with a yellow wash. Without going into the details of what transpired between the parties as a result of the refusal to accept the coffee, it suffices, for this case, to say that ultimately the graders provided for in the contract were named, and on their disagreement a third was selected, who decided that, although the coffee had been coated with the wash, its average quality was yet equal to the specified types of the Coffee Exchange referred to in the contract. The buyers refused to abide by this finding and to accept delivery and pay for the adulterated coffee. The sellers then disposed of the coffee for account of the buyers, and commenced this suit to recover the difference between the amount produced by the alleged sale and the contract price. During the course of the litigation two trials were had, and the cause was twice passed on by the appellate division of the Supreme Court in and for the first judicial department. On the first hearing in the Supreme Court it was held, in accord with a decision of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York, rendered in a collateral controversy which grew out of the refusal to accept the coffee, In re Lurman, 149 N.Y. 588, that if the coffee was adulterated, within the statute of the State of New York, the buyers were not bound to accept, despite the finding of the grader that it conformed to the types of the Coffee Exchange, referred to in the contract. Finally, all incidental questions being eliminated, the cause was tried on the distinct issue whether the coffee was adulterated within the provisions of the statute. There was a verdict and judgment for the buyers, which was affirmed by the appellate division of the Supreme Court in and for the first judicial department. The cause having been then taken to the Court of Appeals of the State of New York, the court affirmed the

[ 192 U.S. Page 195]

     judgment of the Supreme Court and remitted the record to that court. 171 N.Y. 329. Because of such remittitur this writ of error to the Supreme Court is prosecuted to review the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Concerning the facts of the case the Court of Appeals said, p. 335:

"The coffee tendered by the plaintiffs, which was rejected, was of a low grade, containing many poor, withered and black beans. It, confessedly, was colored and the beans coated with a yellowish substance. It is not contended that the coloring matter improved the taste or added to the value of the coffee. It is claimed that the only purpose of the coloring was to hide the character of the poor beans and to make them appear of the same character as the good coffee. The jury has found by its verdict that it was so colored as to conceal the damaged portions, or make it to appear better than it really was, or of greater value to the ordinary, untrained observer. In other words, that it was adulterated for the purposes of fraud and deception."

Applying the provisions of the health laws of the State of New York concerning the adulteration of food products already referred to, it was decided that the court below had correctly held that there was no obligation on the part of the buyer to take delivery and pay for the coffee if fraudulently colored in violation of the prohibitions of the statute. Coming to consider the contention of the sellers, that the provision of the law of the State in ...


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