Amoskeag Manufacturing Company v. United States/Opinion of the Court

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Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

84 U.S. 592

Amoskeag Manufacturing Company  v.  United States

We think that the statement of this case, as it appears in the main points in the findings of the Court of Claims, is the best argument in favor of the claimant that can be made. We cannot believe there would be any hesitation in holding an individual liable who, after making such a contract as was made in this instance, and requesting such alterations for his own benefit, and who, while aware of the increased time necessary, and that the other party was in good faith and with reasonable diligence performing the work, should say, 'I will not receive or pay for the work done, because it was not done within the time first stipulated.'

There is no reason why the parties should not modify the contract by a change in the character of the weapon and time of delivery; and if it was well known to both that the change in the weapon required a longer time, as the court finds it was, it must be implied that both parties consented to such an extension of time as was necessary or reasonable for the completion of the contract.

The reply to this is, that the United States did not contract for six thousand carbines, but only for so many as could be made and delivered within the six months, and that, notwithstanding the change ordered in their construction, as none were delivered within that time, they were not bound to take any afterwards.

But this is a narrow and incomplete view of the contract. It leaves out the claimant's rights in the matter. The claimant had a right under the original contract to deliver six thousand carbines within six months, and have his pay, if he could make so many within that time. He could have made them all within that time, as found by the court, but for his consent to the request of the government to change for its benefit the structure of the weapon. As before stated, this request implied such an extension of time as was known to be necessitated by that improvement, and the government must be bound by this reasonable intendment as an individual would have been. As it is found substantially that the claimant was ready and offered to deliver within a reasonable time, he is entitled to such damages as he sustained by the refusal of the government to receive and pay for the arms.

What are those damages? It is not found that the weapons had at any time a market value or current selling price. It is not found what they were worth or could have been sold for at the time they were offered for delivery and refused. They were not then or at any time sold or offered for sale by the claimant. The only criterion of damage furnished is the finding of the court, that the six thousand carbines are now (at the time of the judgment of the court) in the possession of the company, and of the value of $3 each.

As the case stands, we REVERSE the judgment of the Court of Claims, and remand the case, with directions to render a judgment for the claimant for such damages as they may ascertain that the claimant has sustained by reason of the refusal of the United States to accept and pay for the six thousand carbines.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).