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U.S. Supreme Court

Merchant Fleet Corp. v. Harwood, 281 U.S. 519 (1930)

U. S. Shipping Board Merchant Fleet Corp. v. Harwood

No. 345

Argued April 16, 1930

Decided May 19, 1930

281 U.S. 519


1. The Fleet Corporation held suable on contracts purporting to bind it, made by it in its own name, as a corporation organized under the laws of the District of Columbia, and describing it as representing and acting for and in behalf of the United States, but containing no words purporting to bind the United States or in terms restricting the liability of the corporation. P. 281 U. S. 524.

2. The quasi-public character of the Fleet Corporation, and the duties imposed upon it as an agency of the United States by Acts of Congress and Executive Orders, do not except it from the rule that an agent may be bound, notwithstanding his known agency, by contracts that he executes in his own name. Id.

3. There is no basis for presuming that the Fleet Corporation is not to be deemed bound by the contracts into which it enters merely because it is acting as a public agency, and its liability as measured by their terms is not to be curtailed by the presumption which might be indulged in favor of an individual acting for the government. P. 281 U. S. 525.

4. Section 2(b)(2) of the Merchant Marine Act, which provides that all rights or remedies accruing as a result of contracts previously made under the Emergency Shipping Fund legislation "shall be in all respects as valid, and may be exercised and enforced in like manner, subject to the provisions of subdivision (c) of this section, as if this Act had not been passed," saves the right to sue the Fleet Corporation on its contracts. P. 281 U. S. 527.

5. Subdivision (c) of § 2 of the Merchant Marine Act, providing that any person dissatisfied with any decision of the Shipping Board "shall have the same right to sue the United States as he would have had if the decision had been made by the President of the United States under the Acts hereby repealed," if it is applicable to suits on contracts of the Fleet Corporation, at most gave an additional remedy against the United States, and not a substitute

Page 281 U. S. 520

for existing remedies against the Fleet Corporation expressly preserved by subdivision (b)(2), supra. P. 281 U. S. 527.

32 F.2d 680 affirmed.

Certiorari, 280 U.S. 544, to review a judgment of the circuit court of appeals reversing a judgment of the district court in a suit, brought originally in a state court, against the Fleet Corporation to cancel a contract, for duress and fraud, and to secure an accounting under earlier contracts. The district court dismissed the bill upon the ground that the only remedy was against the United States, 26 F.2d 116. The court of appeals held otherwise, but limited the relief to an accounting under the contract sought to be cancelled.

Page 281 U. S. 522

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