Seitz v. Brewers' Refrigerating Mach Company/Opinion of the Court

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Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

141 U.S. 510

Seitz  v.  Brewers' Refrigerating Mach Company


If the defense were solely that the defendant was induced by false and fraudulent representations to enter into the contract in question, if is conceded that the circuit court did not err in directing a verdict for the plaintiff, as there was no evidence of fraud in the case. It is earnestly contended, however, that, under the answer as amended, the defendant was entitled to avail himself of the breach of an alleged contract of warranty or guaranty collateral to the contract of purchase and sale; or of an implied warranty that the machine should be reasonably fit to accomplish a certain result. Assuming the sufficiency of the pleadings to enable the questions indicated to be raised, we are nevertheless of opinion that the direction of the circuit court was correct. The position of plaintiff in error is, in the first place, that the evidence on his behalf tended to show an agreement between himself and defendant in error, entered into prior to or contemporaneously with the written contract, independent of the latter and collateral to it, that the machine purchased should have a certain capacity, and should be capable of doing certain work; that the machine failed to come up to the requirements of such independent parol contract; that this evidence was competent; and that the case should therefore have been left to the jury. Undoubtedly, the existence of a separate oral agreement as to any matter on which a written contract is silent, and which is not inconsistent with its terms, may be proven by parol, if, under the circumstances of the particular case, it may properly by inferred that the parties did not intend the written paper to be a complete and final statement of the whole of the transaction between them. But such an agreement must not only be collateral, but must relate to a subject distinct from that to which the written contract applies; that is, it must not be so closely connected with the principal transaction as to form part and parcel of it. And when the writing itself upon its face is couched in such terms as import a complete legal obligation, without any uncertainty as to the object or extent of the engagement, it is conclusively presumed that the whole engagement of the parties, and the extent and manner of their undertaking, was reduced to writing, 1 Greenl. Ev. § 275.

There is no pretense here of any fraud, accident, or mistake. The written contract was in all respects unambiguous and definite. The machine which the company sold, and which Seitz bought, was a No. 2 size refrigerating machine, as constructed by the company, and such was the machine which was delivered, put up, and operated in the brewery. A warranty or guaranty that that machine should reduce the temperature of the brewery to 40x Fahrenheit, while in itself collateral to the sale, which would be complete without it, would be part of the description, and essential to the identity of the thing sold; and to admit proof of such an engagement by parol would be to add another term to the written contract, contrary to the settled and salutary rule upon that subject. Whether the written contract fully expressed the terms of the agreement was a question for the court, and since it was in this instance complete and perfect on its face, without ambiguity, and embracing the whole subject-matter, it obviously could not be determined to be less comprehensive than it was. And this conclusion is unaffected by the fact that it did not allude to the capacity of the particular machine. To hold that mere silence opened the door to parol evidence in that regard would be to beg the whole question. We are clear that evidence tending to show the alleged independent collateral contract was inadmissible. Martin v. Cole, 104 U.S. 30; Gilbert v. Plough Co., 119 U.S. 491, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 305; The Delaware, 14 Wall. 579; Naumberg v. Young, 44 N.J. Law, 331; Conant v. Bank, 121 Ind. 323, 22 N. E. Rep. 250; Mast v. Pearce, 58 Iowa, 579, 8 N. W. Rep. 632, and 12 N. W. Rep. 597; Thompson v. Libby, 34 Minn. 374, 26 N. W. Rep. 1; Wilson v. Deen, 74 N. Y. 531; Robinson v. McNeill, 51 Ill. 225.

Failing in respect of the alleged express warranty, plaintiff in error contends, secondly, that there was an implied warranty, arising from the nature of the transaction, that the machine should be reasonably fit to accomplish certain results, to effect which he insists the purchase was made. It is argued that the evidence tended to establish that the plaintiff knew that the defendant had been cooling his brewery with ice, and that the object of obtaining the machine was to render unnecessary the expense of purchasing ice for that purpose, and that unless the machine would cool it to the same extent, or about the same, as the ice did, it would be worthless, so far as he was concerned. It is not denied that the machine was constructed for refrigerating purposes, and that it worked and operated as a refrigerating machine should; but it is said that it did not so refrigerate as to reduce the temperature of the brewery to 40x Fahrenheit, or to a temperature which would enable defendant to dispense with the purchase of ice. The rule invoked is that where a manufacturer contracts to supply an article which he manufactures, to be applied to a particular purpose, so that the buyer necessarily trusts to the judgment of the manufacturer, the law implies a promise or undertaking on his part that the article so manufactured and sole by him for a specific purpose, and to be used in a particular way, is reasonably fit and proper for the purpose for which he professes to make it, and for which it is known to be required; but it is also the rule, as expressed in the text-books and sustained by authority, that where a known, described, and definite article is ordered of a manufacturer, although it is stated by the purchaser to be required for a particular purpose, still, if the known, described, and definite thing be actually supplied, there is no warranty that it shall answer the particular purpose intended by the buyer. Benj. Sales, § 657; Add. Cont. bk. 2, c. 7, p. *977; Chanter v. Hopkins, 4 Mess. & W. 399; Ollivant v. Bayley, 5 Q. B. 288; District of Columbia v. Clephane, 110 U.S. 212, 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 568; Bridge Co. v. Hamilton, 110 U.S. 108, 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 537; Hoe v. Sanborn, 21 N. Y. 552; Deming v. Foster, 42 N. H. 165.

In the case at bar the machine purchased was specifically designated in the contract, and the machine so designated was delivered, put up, and put in operation in the brewery. The only implication in regard to it was that it would perform the work the described machine was made to do, and it is not contended that there was any failure in such performance. This is not the case of an alleged defect in the process of manufacture known to the vendor, but not to the purchaser, nor of presumptive and justifiable reliance by the buyer on the judgment of the vendor rather than his own, but of a purchase of a specific article, manufactured for a particular use, and fit, proper, and efficacious for that use, but in respect to the operation of which, in producing a desired result under particular circumstances, the buyer found himself disappointed. In short, there was no express warranty that the machine would cool 150,000 cubic feet of atmosphere to 40x Fahrenheit, or any other temperature, without reference to the construction of the particular brewery or other surrounding circumstances, and, if there were no actual warranty, none could be imputed. We may add that, in the light of all the evidence in the record, treated as competent, we think no verdict could be permitted to stand which proceeded upon the ground of the existence of such a warranty as is contended for. The alleged antecedent representations as to whether the machine possessed sufficient refrigerating power to cool this brewery were no more than expressions of opinion, confessedly honestly entertained, and dependent upon other elements that the machine itself, concerning which plaintiff in error could form an opinion as well as defendant; and the conduct of plaintiff in error in demanding, two days after the contract was executed, a written guaranty that the machine company would cool his building to 3 1/2x Reaumur, (or 40x Fahrenheit,) and keep it at that all the time, and in acquiescing in the company's refusal to give the guaranty for reasons stated, and in thereupon afterwards ordering the company to go on with the work, as exhibited in the correspondence between the parties, seems to us to justify no other conclusion than that reached by the verdict. The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.

BRADLEY and GRAY, JJ., were not present at the argument, and took no part in the decision of this case.

Notes[edit]

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).