The Okehampton: CA 1913

The plaintiff, sub-charterer of the Okehampton had issued bills of lading under their own name. They sought to recover their loss of freight from the defendants who were owners of a third party vessel which, by negligence, had sunk the Okehampton.
Held: they had a sufficient possessory interest in the Okehampton to do this: ‘I think that it may be inferred as a matter of fact that the goods were in the possession of the [plaintiffs], the contracting carriers, performing their contract by means of a hired ship, so long as they were discharging their obligation with regard to the payment of hire; but the passage cited from Pollock and Wright on Possession in the Common Law, at p.166 par.4 is, I think quite sufficient authority for saying that even if the shipowners had possession so as to make them sub-bailees to [the plaintiffs], such bailment was revocable at pleasure, and there was no adverse right in the shipowners, so long as the time-hire was paid by [the head charterers]. Accordingly, there was interest enough in the plaintiffs to entitle them to bring this action.’ The court must construe the whole instrument before it in its factual context, and cannot ignore the terms of the contract. But it must seek to give effect to the contract as intended, so as not to frustrate the reasonable expectations of businessmen. If an obviously inappropriate form is used, its language must be adapted to apply to the particular case.


Hamilton LJ


[1913] P 173


England and Wales

Contract, Transport

Updated: 16 May 2022; Ref: scu.180646