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U.S. Supreme Court

Robertson v. Frank Brothers Co., 132 U.S. 17 (1889)

Robertson v. Frank Brothers Company

No. 15

Argued October 17, 1889

Decided October 28, 1889

132 U.S. 17


The payment of money to a customs official to avoid an onerous penalty, though the imposition of that penalty may have been illegal, is sufficient to make the payment an involuntary one.

The compulsory insertion by an importer of additional charges upon the entry and invoice, which necessarily involve the payment of increased duties, makes the payment of those duties involuntary.

The general rule that the valuation of merchandise made by a customs appraiser is conclusive if no appeal be taken therefrom to merchant appraisers, is subject to the qualification that if the appraiser proceed upon a wrong principle, contrary to law, and this be made to appear, his appraisement may be impeached.

A statute which requires the dutiable value of imported goods to be reached by adding to the market value of the goods the cost of transportation, and other defined charges, does not authorize an appraiser to reach the

Page 132 U. S. 18

amount of such cost and charges by an estimate or percentage, and an importer who pays duties on an importation thus calculated may, in an action brought to recover such as were illegally exacted, show wherein such estimate or percentage was illegal and excessive.

This was an action to recover duties alleged to have been illegally exacted. Verdict for the plaintiff, and judgment on the verdict. The defendant sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion.

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