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Opinion of the Court.

more than a failure to bestow the care which the property in its situation demands; the omission of the reasonable care required is the negligence which creates the liability; and whether this existed is a question of fact for the jury to determine, or by the court where a jury is waived. See Steamboat New World v. King, 16 How. 469, 474, 475; Railroad Co. v. Lockwood, 17 Wall. 357, 383; Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway v. Arms, 91 U. S. 489, 494. The doctrine of exemption from liability in such cases was at one time carried so far as to shield the bailees from the fraudulent acts of their own employés and officers, though their employment embraced a supervision of the property, such acts not being deemed within the scope of their employment.

Thus, in Foster v. Essex Bank, 17 Mass. 479, the bank was, in such a case, exonerated from liability for the property entrusted to it, which had been fraudulently appropriated by its cashier, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts holding that he had acted without the scope of his authority, and, therefore, the bank was not liable for his acts any more than it would have been for the acts of a mere stranger. In that case a chest containing a quantity of gold coin, which was specified in an accompanying memorandum, was deposited in the bank for safe-keeping, and the gold was fraudulently taken out by the cashier of the bank and used. It was held, upon the doctrine stated, that the bank was not liable to the depositor for the value of the gold taken.

In the subsequent case of Smith v. First National Bank in Westfield, 99 Mass. 605, 611, the same court held that the gross carelessness which would charge a gratuitous bailee for the loss of property must be such as would affect its safekeeping, or tend to its loss, implying that liability would attach to the bailee in such cases, and to that extent qualifying the previous decision.

In Scott v. National Bank of Chester Valley, 72 Penn. St. 471, 480, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania asserted the same doctrine as that in the Massachusetts case, holding that a bank, as a mere depositary, without special contract or reward, was not liable for the loss of a government bond depos

VOL. CXXXVII-39

Opinion of the Court.

ited with it for safe-keeping, and afterwards stolen by one of its clerks or tellers. In that case it was stated that the teller was suffered to remain in the employment of the bank after it was known that he had dealt once or twice in stocks, but this fact was not allowed to control the decision, on the ground that it was unknown to the officers of the bank that the teller gambled in stocks until after he had absconded, but at the same time observing that:

"No officer in a bank, engaged in stock gambling, can be safely trusted, and the evidence of this is found in the numerous defaulters, whose peculations have been discovered to be directly traceable to this species of gambling. A cashier, treasurer, or other officer having the custody of funds, thinks he sees a desirable speculation, and takes the funds of his institution, hoping to return them instantly, but he fails in his venture, or success tempts him on; and he ventures again to retrieve his loss, or increase his gain, and again and again he ventures. Thus the first step, often taken without a criminal intent, is the fatal step, which ends in ruin to himself and to those whose confidence he has betrayed."

As stated above, the reasonable care which persons should take of property entrusted to them for safe-keeping without reward will necessarily vary with its nature, value and situation, and the bearing of surrounding circumstances upon its security. The business of the bailee will necessarily have some effect upon the nature of the care required of him, as, for example, in the case of bankers and banking institutions, having special arrangements, by vaults and other guards, to protect property in their custody. Persons therefore depositing valuable articles with them, expect that such measures will be taken as will ordinarily secure the property from burglars outside and from thieves within, and that whenever ground for suspicion arises an examination will be made by them to see that it has not been abstracted or tampered with; and also that they will employ fit men, both in ability and integrity, for the discharge of their duties, and remove those employed whenever found wanting in either of these particulars. An omission of such measures would in most cases be deemed cul

Opinion of the Court.

pable negligence, so gross as to amount to a breach of good faith, and constitute a fraud upon the depositor.

It was this view of the duty of the defendants in this case, who were engaged in business as bankers, and the evidence of their neglect, upon being notified of the speculations in stocks of their assistant cashier who stole the bonds, to make the necessary examination respecting the securities deposited with them, or to remove the speculating cashier, which led the court to its conclusion that they were guilty of gross negligence. It was shown that about a year before the assistant cashier absconded the defendant Kean, who was the chief officer of the banking institution, was informed that there was some one in the bank speculating on the Board of Trade at Chicago. Thereupon Kean made a quiet investigation, and the facts discovered by him pointed to Ker, whom he accused of speculating. Ker replied that he had made a few transactions, but was doing nothing then and did not propose to do anything more, and that he was then about a thousand dollars ahead, all told. It was not known that Ker had any other property besides his salary. His position as assistant cashier gave him access to the funds as well as the securities of the bank, and he was afterwards kept in his position without any effort being made on the part of the defendants to verify the truth of his statement, or whether he had attempted to appropriate to his own use the property of others.

Again, about two months before Ker absconded, one of the defendants, residing at Detroit, received an anonymous communication, stating that some one connected with the bank in Chicago was speculating on the Board of Trade. He thereupon wrote to the bank, calling attention to the reported speculation of some of its employés, and suggesting inquiry and a careful examination of its securities of all kinds. On receipt of this communication Kean told Ker what he had heard, and asked if he had again been speculating on the Board of Trade. Ker replied that he had made some deals for friends in Canada, but the transactions were ended. The defendants then entered upon an examination of their books and securities, but made no effort to ascertain whether the special depos

Opinion of the Court.

its had been disturbed. Upon this subject the court below, in giving its decision, Prather v. Kean, 29 Fed. Rep. 498, after observing that the defendants knew that Ker had been engaged in business which was hazardous and that his means were scant, and after commenting upon the demoralizing effect of speculating in stocks and grain, as seen in the numerous peculations, embezzlements, forgeries and thefts plainly traceable to that cause, and the free access by Ker to valuable securities, which were transferable by delivery, easily abstracted and converted, and yet his being allowed to retain his position without any effort to see that he had not converted to his own use the property of others, or that his statements were correct, held that it was gross negligence in the defendants not to discharge him or place him in some position of less responsibility. In this conclusion we fully concur.

The second position of the plaintiffs is also well taken, that, assuming the defendants were gratuitous bailees at the time the bonds were placed with them, the character of the bailment was subsequently changed to one for the mutual benefit of the parties. It appears from the findings that the plaintiffs, subsequently to their deposit, had repeatedly asked for a discount of their notes by the defendants, offering the latter the bonds deposited with them as collateral, and that such discounts were made. When the notes thus secured were paid, and the defendants called upon the plaintiffs to know what they should do with the bonds, they were informed that they were to hold them for the plaintiffs' use as previously. The plaintiffs had already written to the defendants that they desired to keep the bonds for an emergency, and also that they wished at times to overdraw their account, and that they would consider the bonds as security for such overdrafts. From these facts the court was of opinion that the bonds were held by the defendants as collateral to meet any sums which the plaintiffs might overdraw; and the accounts show that they did subsequently overdraw in numerous instances.

The deposit, by its change from a gratuitous bailment to a security for loans, became a bailment for the mutual benefit of both parties, that is to say, both were interested in the

Opinion of the Court.

transactions. For the bailor it obtained the loans, and to that extent was to his advantage; and to the bailee it secured the payment of the loans, and that was to his advantage also. The bailee was therefore required, for the protection of the bonds, to give such care as a prudent owner would extend to his own property of a similar kind, being in that respect under an obligation of a more stringent character than that of a gratuitous bailee, but differing from him in that he thereby became liable for the loss of the property. if caused by his neglect, though not amounting to gross negligence.

Two cases cited by counsel, one from the Court of Appeals of Maryland and the other from the Court of Appeals of New York, declare and illustrate the relation of parties under conditions similar to those of the parties before us.

In the case from Maryland, Third National Bank v. Boyd, 44 Maryland, 47, it appeared that a firm by the name of William A. Boyd & Co. was a large customer of the Third National Bank of Baltimore, and on the 5th of February, 1866, was indebted to it in about $5000. Subsequently, the senior member of the firm, pursuant to an agreement between him and the president of the bank, deposited with the bank certain bonds and stocks as collateral security for the payment of all obligations of himself and of the firm then existing or that might be incurred thereafter, with the understanding that the right to sell the collaterals in satisfaction of such obligations was vested in the officers of the bank. Some of the bonds were subsequently withdrawn and others deposited in their place. While these collaterals were with the bank the firm kept a deposit account, having an average of about $4000, and from time to time, as it needed, obtained on the security of the collaterals discounts ranging from three to fifteen thousand dollars. The firm was not indebted to the bank subsequently to July, 1872, when it paid its last indebtedness; the bonds, however, were not then withdrawn, but left in the bank under the original agreement. In August, 1872, the bank was entered by burglars and certain of the bonds were stolen. In an action by the senior partner against the bank to recover the value of the bonds stolen, it was held: "First.

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