Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

bility would result from fair negotiations between an owner willing to sell and a purchaser desiring to buy. Brooks-Scanlon Corporation v. United States, 265 V. S. 106, 123. And by numerous decisions of this Court it is firmly established that the cost of reproduction as of the date of valuation constitutes evidence properly to be considered in the ascertainment of value. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. v. Public Service Commission, 262 U. S. 276, 287, and cases cited; Bluefield Co. v. Public Service Commission, 262 U. S. 679, 689; Georgia Ry. & Power Co. V. Railroad Commission, 262 U. S. 625, 629; BrooksScanlon Corporation v. United States, supra, 125; Ohio Utilities Company v. Public l'tilities Commission, 267 U. S. 359. The same rule is applied in England. In re Mersey Docks and Admiralty Commisisoners [1920], 3 K. B. 223; Toronto City Corporation v. Toronto Railway Corporation, [1925] A. C. 177, 191. It is to be borne in mind that value is the thing to be found and that neither cost of reproduction new, nor that less depreciation, is the measure or sole guide. The ascertainment of value is not controlled by artificial rules. It is not a matter of formulas, but there must be a reasonable judgment having its basis in a proper consideration of all relevant facts. Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 ('. S. 352, 434.

The Proteus was a steel passenger and freight steamship, built in 1900 for use in the Southern Pacific Company's service between New York and New Orleans. Her original cost was $557,600. In 1909, she was reboilered and otherwise improved at a cost of $90,000. The evidence shows that she was unusually well kept and in excellent condition for use. The District Court found that in 1917 and 1918, on account of unprecedented demand and a shortage of shipbuilding facilities, the market value of ships was higher than the cost of construction; and also found that in 1918, when the Proteus was lost, the cost of construction was approaching the peak which came some months later. 285 Fed. 619, 620. Respondents

[blocks in formation]

called three witnesses experienced in shipbuilding and familiar with construction costs and value of ships in 1918. Each made an estimate of the cost of reproduction of the Proteus as of the date of the loss. Their estimates were respectively $1,755,450, $1,750,000 and $1,750,000. One of these witnesses and two others called by respondent testified respectively that in 1918 the value of the Proteus was $1,225,000, $1,297,637 and $1,350,000. The petitioner called a mechanical engineer and naval architect connected with its construction department, who testified that the cost of reproduction of the Proteus in 1918 would have been three times its original cost or approximately $1,670,000. It called two other witnesses, who had been members of a government board of appraisers for the determination of just compensation for vessels requisitioned. They expressed the opinion that the cost of reproduction of the Proteus in 1918 would have been two and a half times its original cost or approximately $1,400,000. But they made no detailed estimates. The figures were arrived at by examination of statistics showing labor and material costs. These three witnesses testified respectively that at the time of the loss the value of the ship was $630,000, $650,000 and $611,000.

In view of changed prices, the original cost of the vessel was not useful as a guide to her value when lost. In The Clyde, 1 Swabey 23, Doctor Lushington, speaking of what a vessel would fetch in the market, said (p. 24): “In order to ascertain this, there are various species of evidence that may be resorted to—for instance, the value of the vessel when built. But that is only one species of evidence, because the value may furnish a very inferior criterion whereby to ascertain the value at the moment of destruction. The length of time during which the vessel has been used, and the degree of deterioration suffered, will affect the original price at which the vessel was built. But there is another matter infinitely more important than this—known even to the most un

[blocks in formation]

learned—the constant change which takes place in the market. It is the market price which the Court looks to, and nothing else, as the value of the property. It is an old saying, “The worth of a thing is the price it will bring.'” And see City of Winona v. Wisconsin-Minnesota Light & Power Co., 276 Fed. 996, 1003.

Restitutio in integrum is the leading maxim applied by admiralty courts to ascertain damages resulting from a collision (The Baltimore, supra, 385), and on the same principle, value is the measure of compensation in case of total loss. The evidence requires a finding that, as of the date of her loss, the cost of reproduction new of the Proteus was not less than $1,750,000. Ordinarily, contemporaneous cost of construction would be a good indication of the amount of damages resulting from the loss of a new ship. There ought not to be any difference between reasonable original cost and estimated cost of reproduction as of the date when built. But the Proteus was 18 years old when lost, and all the witnesses who testified on the subject fixed her value at that time higher than her original cost and lower than the estimated cost of construction. There is no established method or rule for determining the difference between her value at the time of the loss and what her value would have been if then new. It was shown that annual rates of depreciation used in the accounts of shipowners varied from two and a half to five per cent., and that such rates are affected by the policy of the owners, business conditions, taxes and other things. It was not shown whether such deductions covered annual depreciation resulting notwithstanding proper maintenance, or whether they included all or part of the current cost of upkeep. It did not appear whether the rates were applied to reproduction cost or to original cost, or to an amount remaining after deduction on account of scrap value or salvage value or other minimum. In August, 1918, the immediate demand for ships was greater than the supply; the

[blocks in formation]

shipyards were working to full capacity; wages and prices were high; the trend of construction costs was upward, and the element of time was of the utmost importance. And witnesses on both sides testified that such conditions make for a lower rate of depreciation to be taken into account in determining value. If new, the Proteus would have been worth at least her cost of reproduction. Plainly, conditions in 1918 justified a smaller deduction from cost of reproduction new than before the war, and made value of a vessel in good condition and ready for use approach more nearly its value new.

Petitioner's mechanical engineer arrived at $630,000 by taking 34 per cent. of $1,670,000, reproduction cost as found by him, and by making some relatively small adjustments on account of expenditures for maintenance and improvement. He arrived at 66 per cent. deducted, by taking 4 per cent. for 14 years and two and a half per cent. for four years, making an average of over 3.6 per cent. The two other witnesses called by petitioner arrived at $650,000 and $611,000 respectively, by taking 45.2 per cent. of $1,400,000, reproduction cost found by them, and by making similar adjustments. They arrived at 54.8 per cent. deducted, by the use of a depreciation table prepared by another member of the board of appraisers. This table applies to steel steamers in salt water service. It is based on a life of 40 years. It makes a different deduction for each year. For the first 20 years it takes off 60 per cent. and for the last, 40 per cent. The average annual rate is two and a half per cent. The evidence showed that the useful life of such a vessel is not any fixed number of years, but varies greatly, depending on upkeep and maintenance. The table was intended to reflect average conditions of the different depreciable elements of ships of that class and to guide to average values over extended periods, including times of depression as well as of prosperity. The value fixed by each of petitioner's witnesses is more than $1,000,000 less than the

[blocks in formation]

reproduction cost. The rate of depreciation taken by petitioner's mechanical engineer is too high in view of the conditions prevailing at the time of the loss. The other witnesses based their calculation on a reproduction cost that was too low. Moreover, certain valuations made by the government board of appraisers of which they were members seriously impair the weight of their testimony. In 1917, the United States requisitioned the Havana and the Saratoga, vessels of the same type as the Proteus and about one and a half times its size, and constructed in 1906. Cramps estimated reproduction cost of each in 1917 to be $3,000,000, about three times original cost. The board fixed value at $2,240,000 each, about 74 per cent. of reproduction cost. But the value of the Proteus as given by these witnesses was less than 38 per cent. of her cost of reproduction new.

We think the commissioner and District Court failed to give due regard to construction costs, conditions, wages and prices affecting value in 1918; and that the evidence sustains the decree of the Circuit Court of Appeals.

Decree affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND took no part in the hearing or decision of this case.

« AnteriorContinuar »