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"It would not be proper to reverse the calls of the grant made to Maximo Moreno and to run in reverse course from the southeast corner for the purpose of ascertaining where the northeast corner would be found by the measurement called for in the grant, if the evidence satisfies the jury that the surveyor actually began the survey at the corner called the beginning corner in the field notes and from that corner ran and measured the western and northern lines on the ground."
We think the instruction was properly refused. As already intimated, the judge was right in holding as he did, and in instructing the jury, that the beginning corner of a survey does not control more than any other corner actually well ascertained, and that we are not constrained to follow the calls of the grant in the order said calls stand in the field notes, but are permitted to reverse the calls and trace the lines the other way, and should do so whenever by so doing the land embraced would most nearly harmonize all the calls and the objects of the grant. If an insurmountable difficulty is met with in running the lines in one direction, and is entirely obviated by running them in the reverse direction, and all the known calls of the survey are harmonized by the latter course, it is only a dictate of common sense to follow it.
The judgment is
ERROR TO THE
PRESTON v. PRATHER.
CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
No. 115. Argued December 11, 1890. Decided January 5, 1891.
When a case is heard, on stipulation of the parties, by the court without the intervention of a jury, and its special findings cover all the disputed questions of fact, and there is in the record no bill of exceptions taken to rulings in the progress of the trial, the correctness of the findings on the evidence is not open for consideration here.
Gratuitous bailees of another's property are not responsible for its loss unless guilty of gross negligence in its keeping; and whether that neg
Statement of the Case.
ligence existed is a question of fact for the jury to determine; or to be determined by the court where a jury is waived.
The reasonable care which a bailee of another's property entrusted to him for safe keeping without reward must take, varies with the nature, value and situation of the property and the bearing of surrounding circumstances on its security.
Persons depositing valuable articles with banks for safe-keeping without reward have a right to expect that such measures will be taken as will ordinarily secure them from burglars outside and from thieves within; that whenever ground for suspicion arises an examination will be made to see that they have not been abstracted or tampered with; that competent men, both as to ability and integrity, for the discharge of these duties will be employed; and that they will be removed whenever found wanting in either of these particulars.
In this case persons engaged in business as bankers received for safe-keeping a parcel containing bonds, which was put in their vaults. They were notified that their assistant cashier, who had free access to the vaults where the bonds were deposited, and who was a person of scant means, was engaged in speculations in stocks. They made no examination as to the securities deposited with them, and did not remove the cashier. He stole the bonds so deposited. Held, that the bankers were guilty of gross negligence, and were liable to the owner of the bonds for their value at the time they were stolen.
When bonds originally deposited with a bank for safe-keeping are by agreement of the bailor and bailee made a standing security for the payment of loans to be made by the bank to the owner of the bonds, the bailee becomes bound to give such care to them as a prudent owner would extend to his own property of a similar kind.
THE plaintiffs below, the defendants in error here, were citizens of Missouri, and for many years have been copartners, doing business at Maryville, in that State, under the name of the Nodaway Valley Bank of Maryville. The defendants below were citizens of different States, one of them of Michigan and the others of Illinois, and for a similar period have been engaged in business as bankers at Chicago, in the latter State. In 1873 the plaintiffs opened an account with the defendants, which continued until the spring of 1883. The average amount of deposits by them with the defendants each year during this period was between two and four hundred thousand dollars. Interest was allowed at the rate of two and one-half per cent on the deposits above three thousand dollars, but nothing on deposits under that sum.
On the 7th of July, 1880, the plaintiffs purchased of the
Argument for Plaintiff in Error.
defendants four per cent bonds of the United States to the nominal amount of twelve thousand dollars; but, the bonds being at a premium in the market, the plaintiffs paid for them, including the accrued interest thereon, thirteen thousand and five dollars. The purchase was made upon a request by letter from the plaintiffs; and all subsequent communications between the parties respecting the bonds, and the conditions upon which they were to be held, are contained in their correspondence. The letter directing the purchase concluded with a request that the defendants send to the plaintiffs a description and the numbers of the bonds, and hold the same as a special deposit. In the subsequent account of the purchase rendered by the defendants the plaintiffs were informed that the bonds were held on special deposit subject to their order. The numbers of the bonds appear upon the bond register kept by the defendants, and the bonds remained in their custody until some time between November, 1881, and November, 1882, when they were stolen and disposed of by their assistant cashier, one Ker, who absconded from the State on the 16th of January, 1883. The present action was brought to recover their value.
[It appeared that about a year before he absconded, information was given to the bank that some one in its employ was speculating on the Board of Trade in Chicago, and an inquiry revealed the fact that Ker was that person. Although he was supposed to be dependent entirely on his salary, and although he had free access to the vaults where the securities of the bank, including these bonds, were deposited, he was continued in the service of the bank until the theft took place.
At the trial a jury was waived by stipulation. The court found special findings of fact, which were not excepted to, and gave judgment for the plaintiffs. 29 Fed. Rep. 498. The defendants sued out this writ of error.]
Mr. John P. Wilson for plaintiffs in error, with whom was Mr. P. S. Grosscup for Kean, one of the plaintiffs in error.
I. The stolen bonds were held as a special deposit at the date when they were stolen. Reynes v. Dumont, 130 U. S.
Opinion of the Court.
354; Duncan v. Brennan, 83 N. Y. 487; Wyckoff v. Anthony, 90 N. Y. 442; Neponset Bank v. Leland, 5 Met. 259.
II. The bonds being held on special deposit, plaintiffs in error would be liable for their loss only in the event of such loss being caused by their gross negligence, which is not established by the facts found by the court. Foster v. Essex Bank, 17 Mass. 479; S. C. 9 Am. Dec. 168; Giblin v. McMullen, L. R. 2 P. C. 317; Whitney v. National Bank of Brattleboro, 55 Vermont, 154; Allentown Bank v. Rex, 89 Penn. St. 308; Tompkins v. Saltmarsh, 14 S. & R. 275; National Bank v. Graham, 100 U. S. 699.
III. The facts found by the court are insufficient to sustain the judgment, even if the bonds were held under an agreement that the same should be collateral for overdrafts. Smith v. First National Bank, 99 Mass. 605; S. C. 97 Am. Dec. 59; Allentown Bank v. Rex, 89 Penn. St. 308; Scott v. National Bank of Chester Valley, 72 Penn. St. 471.
Mr. W. P. Fennell and Mr. M. D. Brainard also filed a brief for Gray, plaintiff in error.
Mr. Huntington W. Jackson for defendants in error.
Mr. Robert Hervey also filed a brief for defendants in error. MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
By the defendants it was contended below in substance, and the contention is renewed here, that the bonds being placed with them on special deposit for safe-keeping, without any reward, promised or implied, they were gratuitous bailees, and were not chargeable for the loss of the bonds, unless the same resulted from their gross negligence, and they deny that any such negligence is imputable to them.
On the other hand, the plaintiffs contended below, and repeat their contention here, that, assuming that the defendants were in fact simply gratuitous bailees when the bonds were deposited with them, they still neglected to keep them with the care which such bailees are bound to give for the protec
Opinion of the Court.
tion of property placed in their custody; and further, that subsequently the character of the bailment was changed to one for the mutual benefit of the parties.
Much of the argument of counsel before the court, and in the briefs filed by them, was unnecessary- indeed, was not open to consideration - from the fact that the case was heard, upon stipulation of parties, by the court without the intervention of a jury, and its special findings cover all the disputed questions of fact. There is in the record no bill of exceptions taken to rulings in the progress of the trial, and the correctness of the findings upon the evidence is not open to our consideration. Rev. Stat. § 700. The question whether the facts found are sufficient to support the judgment is the only one of inquiry here.
Undoubtedly, if the bonds were received by the defendants for safe-keeping, without compensation to them in any form, but exclusively for the benefit of the plaintiffs, the only obligation resting upon them was to exercise over the bonds such reasonable care as men of common prudence would usually bestow for the protection of their own property of a similar character. No one taking upon himself a duty for another without consideration is bound, either in law or morals, to do more than a man of that character would do generally for himself under like conditions. The exercise of reasonable care is in all such cases the dictate of good faith. An utter disregard of the property of the bailor would be an act of bad faith to him. But what will constitute such reasonable care will vary with the nature, value and situation of the property, the general protection afforded by the police of the community against violence and crime, and the bearing of surrounding circumstances upon its security. The care usually and generally deemed necessary in the community for the security of similar property, under like conditions, would be required of the bailee in such cases, but nothing more. The general doctrine, as stated by text writers and in judicial de cisions, is that gratuitous bailees of another's property are not responsible for its loss unless guilty of gross negligence in its keeping. But gross negligence in such cases is nothing