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清华大学经管学院商法副教授

 
 
 

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主要研究领域:知识产权法、公司法、合同法及其法院司法判例研究。

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湖河公司诉金刚砂公司  

2017-05-30 17:19:23|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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LAKE RIVER CORPORATION v. CARBORUNDUM COMPANY

湖河公司诉金刚砂公司

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

联邦第七巡回上诉法院

769 F.2d 1284

 

OPINION(裁判意见)

POSNER, Circuit Judge(波斯纳,联邦第七巡回上诉法院法官)

…………

Carborundum manufactures "Ferro Carbo," an abrasive powder used in making steel. To serve its midwestern customers better, Carborundum made a contract with Lake River by which the latter agreed to provide distribution services in its warehouse in Illinois. Lake River would receive Ferro Carbo in bulk from Carborundum, "bag" it, and ship the bagged product to Carborundum's customers. The Ferro Carbo would remain Carborundum's property until delivered to the customers.

 

金刚砂公司生产Ferro Carbo”牌炼钢炉料金刚砂粉(“金刚砂”)。为更好服务中西部客户起见,金刚砂公司约请湖河公司,使用湖河公司在伊利若斯州的仓库,提供分销服务。湖河公司,从金刚砂公司接收散装金刚砂,装袋,将已袋装的金刚砂发往客户。在发往客户之前,金刚砂所有权仍属金刚砂公司。

Carborundum insisted that Lake River install a new bagging system to handle the contract. In order to be sure of being able to recover the cost of the new system ($89,000) and make a profit of 20 percent of the contract price, Lake River insisted on the following minimum-quantity guarantee:

 

金刚砂公司要求,湖河公司应另行备置成本为美元89,000元的新装袋系统,以资执行合同。为确保回收前述成本并获取合同价款20%的收益起见,湖河公司坚持写入下列最小额保证条款:

 

   In consideration of the special equipment [i.e., the new bagging system] to be acquired and furnished by LAKE-RIVER for handling the product, CARBORUNDUM shall, during the initial three-year term of this Agreement, ship to LAKE-RIVER for bagging a minimum quantity of [22,500 tons]. If, at the end of the three-year term, this minimum quantity shall not have been shipped, LAKE-RIVER shall invoice CARBORUNDUM at the then prevailing rates for the difference between the quantity bagged and the minimum guaranteed.

 

湖河公司为分销特意备置设备,也就是,新装袋系统;作为约因,在本协议初始三年内,金刚砂公司应发往湖河公司以资装袋的金刚砂,其最小额为22,500吨。如若三年届满但发送量不达最小额,湖河公司将向金刚砂公司,以已装袋量和最小额之间的差额,从届时的市价,开票记收钱款。

 

If Carborundum had shipped the full minimum quantity that it guaranteed, it would have owed Lake River roughly $533,000 under the contract.

如若足额发送它保证的最小量,湖河公司可向金刚砂公司收取合同价款美元约533,000元。

After the contract was signed in 1979, the demand for domestic steel, and with it the demand for Ferro Carbo, plummeted, and Carborundum failed to ship the guaranteed amount. When the contract expired late in 1982, Carborundum had shipped only 12,000 of the 22,500 tons it had guaranteed. Lake River had bagged the 12,000 tons and had billed Carborundum for this bagging, and Carborundum had paid, but by virtue of the formula in the minimum-guarantee clause Carborundum still owed Lake River $241,000 -- the contract price of $533,000 if the full amount of Ferro Carbo had been shipped, minus what Carborundum had paid for the bagging of the quantity it had shipped.

 

1979年缔约后,美国国内的钢和金刚砂之需求相继崖断,金刚砂公司的发送量不达保证的最小量。1982年底合同期满时,金刚砂公司仅仅发送其保证发送量22,500吨中的12,000湖河公司袋装12,000吨,为此向金刚砂公司开单计取,金刚砂公司付讫。从最小量保证条款所列公式,金刚砂公司仍应向湖河公司支付美元241,000元,足额发送金刚砂应支付的合同价款美元533,000元,减去金刚砂公司付讫的已发送袋装量的相应款项。

When Lake River demanded payment of this amount, Carborundum refused, on the ground that the formula imposed a penalty. At the time, Lake River had in its warehouse 500 tons of bagged Ferro Carbo, having a market value of $269,000, which it refused to release unless Carborundum paid the $241,000 due under the formula. Lake River did offer to sell the bagged product and place the proceeds in escrow until its dispute with Carborundum over the enforceability of the formula was resolved, but Carborundum rejected the offer and trucked in bagged Ferro Carbo from the East to serve its customers in Illinois, at an additional cost of $31,000.

 

湖河公司请求支付前述款项,但是金刚砂公司拒绝。其理由是前述公式强加的是罚金。同时,在湖河公司仓库尚有已经袋装完毕的500金刚砂,市场价值美元269,000元;湖河公司拒绝放行,除非金刚砂公司付清前述公式下应付的美元241,000元。事后湖河公司建议出售袋装金刚砂,并将相应款项置入第三方保管账户,在湖河公司与金刚砂公司之间有关前述公式可执行性纠纷了结后再行支付。金刚砂公司拒绝湖河公司的建议,直接从东海岸向伊利若斯州客户用卡车运送袋装金刚砂,因此生出额外费用美元31,000元。

Lake River brought this suit for $241,000, which it claims as liquidated damages. Carborundum counterclaimed for the value of the bagged Ferro Carbo when Lake River impounded it and the additional cost of serving the customers affected by the impounding. The theory of the counterclaim is that the impounding was a conversion, and not as Lake River contends the assertion of a lien. The district judge, after a bench trial, gave judgment for both parties. Carborundum ended up roughly $42,000 to the good: $269,000 + $31,000-$241000-$17,000, the last figure representing prejudgment interest on Lake River's damages…….Both parties have appealed.

 

湖河公司提起本诉,诉请支付美元241,000元,此属违约金。金刚砂公司反诉,请求返还湖河公司扣留时已经袋装的金刚砂的价款,并请求返还因扣留招致的另行向客户发送的额外费用。反诉的理由是,彼等扣留实乃变价,并非湖河公司所言行使留置权。联邦地区法院法官历经庭审后给予裁判。因扣留的金刚砂,金刚砂公司最终获得美元42,000元,即美元269,000 + 美元31,000-美元241000-美元17,000元。最后一个数字,是湖河公司索赔的赔偿金之裁判前利息……双方皆上诉至本院。

…………

Suppose a breach would cost the promisee $12,000 in actual damages but would yield the promisor $20,000 in additional profits. Then there would be a net social gain from breach. After being fully compensated for his loss the promisor would be no worse off than if the contract had been performed, while the promisor would be better off by $8,000. But now suppose the contract contains a penalty clause under which the promisor if he breaks his promise must pay the promisee $25,000. The promisor will be discouraged from breaking the contract, since $25,000, the penalty, is greater than $20,000, the profits of the breach; and a transaction that would have increased value will be forgone.

 

假设,违约行为给受害人招致实际损失美元12,000元,但给违约人带来额外收益美元20,000元。因此违约行为尚可顺带社会净收益。足额赔偿受害人的损失之后,违约人所处境况并不比信守合同情形下者差,反得额外收益美元8,000元。现再假设,合同设有罚金条款,如若违约人食言,得向受害人支付美元25,000元。因为美元25,000元罚金,大于前述违约获益美元20,000元,违约行为并不在鼓励之列。原本可以增加价值的交易遏制不前。

On this view, since compensatory damages should be sufficient to deter inefficient breaches (that is, breaches that cost the victim more than the gain to the contract breaker), penal damages could have no effect other than to deter some efficient breaches…….

 

从这一视角看,赔偿金足以遏制非属有效的违约行为,即违约行为给受害人招致的损害,大于违约人因此获得的收益。罚金之效仅是阻遏本属有效的违约行为。

…………

Suppose to begin with that the breach occurs the day after Lake River buys its new bagging system for $89,000 and before Carborundum ships any Ferro Carbo. Carborundum would owe Lake River $533,000. Since Lake River would have incurred at that point a total cost of only $89,000, its net gain from the breach would be $444,000. This is more than four times the profit of $107,000 (20 percent of the contract price of $533,000) that Lake River expected to make from the contract if it had been performed: a huge windfall.

 

假设,违约行为发生在,湖河公司采购美元89,000元的新装袋系统之后,但金刚砂公司尚未发送一粒金刚砂之前。金刚砂公司应向湖河公司支付美元533,000元。湖河公司在这一个时点的所有费用是美元89,000元,此时违约行为招致的净收益是美元444,000元。这一意外横财是合同收益美元107,000元的4倍,美元107,000元即合同价款美元533,000元的20%。此等额度,就是合同得以履行之后湖河公司预期可得者。

Next suppose (as actually happened here) that breach occurs when 55 percent of the Ferro Carbo has been shipped. Lake River would already have received $293,000 from Carborundum. To see what its costs then would have been (as estimated at the time of contracting), first subtract Lake River's anticipated profit on the contract of $107,000 from the total contract price of $533,000. The difference -- Lake River's total cost of performance -- is $426,000. Of this, $89,000 is the cost of the new bagging system, a fixed cost. The rest ($426,000-$89,000=$337,000) presumably consists of variable costs that are roughly proportional to the amount of Ferro Carbo bagged; there is no indication of any other fixed costs. Assume, therefore, that if Lake River bagged 55 percent of the contractually agreed quantity, it incurred in doing so 55 percent of its variable costs, or $185,000. When this is added to the cost of the new bagging system, assumed for the moment to be worthless except in connection with the contract, the total cost of performance to Lake River is $274,000. Hence a breach that occurred after 55 percent of contractual performance was complete would be expected to yield Lake River a modest profit of $19,000 ($293,000-$274,000). But now add the "liquidated damages" of $241,000 that Lake River claims, and the result is a total gain from the breach of $260,000, which is almost two and a half times the profit that Lake River expected to gain if there was no breach.And this ignores any use value or salvage value of the new bagging system, which is the property of Lake River -- though admittedly it also ignores the time value of money; Lake River paid $89,000 for that system before receiving any revenue from the contract.

再假设,实即本案发生者,违约行为发生在55%的金刚砂发送之后。湖河公司已经从金刚砂公司收到美元293,000元。看看费用应该是多少,不妨从缔约时点评估,首先,湖河公司预期可得收益美元107,000元,先从美元533,000元刨除。其差额是湖河公司所有的履行费用,即美元426,000元。其中,美元89,000元,是新装袋系统的花费,这是固定成本。美元426,000元减去美元89,000元的相应余额,不妨假定由可变成本组成,大致和已袋装的金刚砂量成比例。此外没有任何固定成本。因此假设,如若湖河公司袋装约定数量的55%,因此招致的可变成本是55%,即美元185,000元。将这一成本加进新装袋系统的花费,湖河公司总成本是美元274,000元。若不将其与本合同连接,新装袋系统视若分文不值。因此发生在55%金刚砂发送之际的违约行为,可以给湖河公司带来至少美元19,000元的收益,即美元293,000元减去274,000元的余额。不过,还应加上湖河公司诉请的“违约金”美元241,000元,总体结果是,因违约行为获益美元260,000元,这差不多是,若无违约湖河公司预期可得收益的2.5倍。这忽略了新装袋系统的任何使用价值或者残值,新装袋系统仍然是湖河公司的财产。也不用讳言,这也忽略了现金的时间价值,湖河公司为新装袋系统支付美元89,000元之时,并没有因前述合同获得任何收入。

To complete the picture, assume that the breach had not occurred till performance was 90 percent complete. Then the "liquidated damages" clause would not be so one-sided, but it would be one-sided. Carborundum would have paid $480,000 for bagging. Against this, Lake River would have incurred its fixed cost of $89,000 plus 90 percent of its variable costs of $337,000, or $303,000. Its total costs would thus be $392,000, and its net profit $88,000. But on top of this it would be entitled to "liquidated damages" of $53,000, for a total profit of $141,000 -- more than 30 percent more than its expected profit of $107,000 if there was no breach.

 

为了看清全貌,不妨再假设,违约行为发生在履约90%之际。这时的“违约金条款”就不再那么偏向一方,尽管实实在在偏向一方。金刚砂公司为袋装了结者支付美元480,000元。相应地,湖河公司负担固定成本美元89,000元和可变成本美元303,000元,即美元337,000元的90%。湖河公司的总费用是美元392,000元,净收益美元88,000元。此外,湖河公司可得“违约金”美元53,000元,总计获益美元141,000元,若无违约预期可得收益是美元107,000元,前者超出后者的超出比例远过30%

The reason for these results is that most of the costs to Lake River of performing the contract are saved if the contract is broken, and this saving is not reflected in the damage formula. As a result, at whatever point in the life of the contract a breach occurs, the damage formula gives Lake River more than its lost profits from the breach -- dramatically more if the breach occurs at the beginning of the contract; tapering off at the end, it is true…….

 

上述结果的理由是,如若存在违约行为,湖河公司绝大多数履约费用节省了;这些节省额并未反应在赔偿公式里面。相应的结果是,在履约进程任何时点发生违约行为,赔偿公式算给湖河公司者远远大于因违约而丧失的获益额。如若违约行为发生在缔约之时,则大得出乎寻常。最终变为零,这是真的……

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