The Federal Reporter with Key-Number Annotations, Volume 256: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Courts of Appeals and District Courts of the United States, May-July, 1919. Page: 67
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ELDER DEMPSTER & CO. V. TALGE MAHOGANY CO.
On June 8, 1911, respondent's agents at New Orleans, aftet having
communicated with their principal in Liverpool, wrote a letter to the
libelant, containing the following," quotation from a' letter of the
"We are duly 'in receipt of your letter of the, 1st inst., inclosing claim for
$783 44, which the Talge Company have rendered to you for loss of certain
logs whilst the Andoni was loading at Axim in Sept./Oct. last. However, we
cannot admit this claim, because our steamer cannot be held for loss or cost
in recovering logs, unless she herself had actually signed for them, and this
we do not suppose is the case."
That quotation was followed by the following statement in the let-
ter of the agents:
"If you have not got any receipts for the logs in question, we think that
it is not reasonable to expect that we can get Liverpool to assume the re-
sponsibility for loss of logs whilst in your possession."
Nothing further occurred between the parties until the libel was filed
as above stated. Evidence adduced indicated that 'when, in conse-
quence of the filing of the libel, the respondent had occasion 'to get
the testimony of the officers and crew of the chartered ship in refer-
ence to the circumstances of the alleged delivery 'nd going' adrift of
the logs, it was unable to do so because the officers and =crew had
long before that time left the respondent's service, and none bf them
could be located.
After the respondent's explicit denial of liability, based upon the
absence of any disclosure of fault chargeable against it, more than
five years elapsed before the filing of the libel, which, so far as appears,
was the first assertion of any fault chargeable against the respondent
which would make it liable for the alleged damage and loss. Until
the respondent in some way was notified or informed that fault or
negligence with reference to the logs going adrift was imputed to it
or the ship, there was no occasion for it to seek evidence to meet or
rebut that imputation. Its response'to a demand which was made in
such a way as not to indicate that the claim had any validity amounted
to an invitation to the libelant to assert in a proper way whatever claim
was relied on. Under the circumstances, a natural result of the libel-
ant's failure for more than five years so to assert its claim as to indicate
to the respondent that there was any need for it to seek evidence tro
show the invalidity of the claim was a loss by the respondent of the
opportunity of adducing evidence which it may be supposed would
have been available to it, if the claim had been properly asserted
with reasonable promptness. There is an absence of any showing of
an excuse or explanation of the protracted delay in bringing suit.
Continuously from the time-of the occurrence in question the respond-
ent had agents resident in New Orleans, and it could have been sued
there, and funds in the hands of such agents attached, at any time
after the.alleged claim is' asserted to have accrued.
[1, 2] While courts of admiralty are not goveried by asy statute
of limitation, laches or delay in the judicialenforcement of maritime
claims constitutes a valid defense, where the circumstances 'are such
that it is to be inferred that the party proceeded against was, prej-
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The Federal Reporter with Key-Number Annotations, Volume 256: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Courts of Appeals and District Courts of the United States, May-July, 1919., legislative document, 1919; Saint Paul, Minnesota. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38827/m1/81/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.