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January 3, 1955


Appeal, No. 181, March T., 1954, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1950, No. 799, in case of C. S. Helmig v. Rockwell Manufacturing Company. Judgment affirmed; reargument refused February 3, 1955.


Frank R. Bolte, with him Francis S. McMichael, for appellant.

J. Wray Connolly, with him W. S. Moorhead, Jr., John M. Feeney, Jr., and Moorhead & Knox, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Chidsey

[ 380 Pa. Page 306]


This action is assumpsit was brought by the plaintiff, C. S. Helmig, a steel broker, against the defendant, Rockwell Manufacturing Company, a corporation, to recover a broker's commission. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $177,811.20.

[ 380 Pa. Page 307]

The defendant filed motions for judgment non obstante veredicto and a new trial. The court en banc, deeming the evidence insufficient to impose liability on the defendant, granted defendant's motion for judgment n.o.v. and accordingly refused the motion for new trial. From the judgment thereupon entered for the defendant plaintiff has taken the present appeal.

In the spring of 1948 the defendant was engaged in the manufacture and sale of various finished steel products. At that time defendant's demand for the use of steel sheets far exceeded its supply. Having no facilities at its own plant for the production of these sheets and the customary channels of trade being unable to furnish defendant's requirements, it was forced to resort to other means of supply. On or about April 2, 1948 the plaintiff informed W. H. Newbaker, defendant's vice-president in charge of purchases, that he knew of one method of acquiring additional rolled steel. He represented to defendant's agent that there was a possibility he could obtain a sufficient quantity of acceptable steel ingots and then have the owner of a rolling mill process and convert the ingots into rolled sheets. As a result of these negotiations the defendant on April 7, 1948 sent the following letter to the plaintiff: "Gentlement: In consideration for services rendered in procuring 6,000 gross tons of acceptable steel ingots and the yield from the rolling time necessary for the conversion of same into hot rolled, pickled and oil sheets, we agree to pay to C. S. Helmig a commission of $35.00 per net ton on delivery payable upon presentation and/or our receipt of shipping documents for all sheet accepted at destination designated by us. This commission based on $215.00 per net ton of sheets F.O.B. eastern seaboard. This letter is preliminary to the establishment of an irrevocable letter of credit, said letter of credit to be established in a Pittsburgh

[ 380 Pa. Page 308]

    bank mutually agreeable on the terms indicated above.".

Upon receipt of this letter plaintiff contacted an associate, one Graydon Thomas of Baltimore, Maryland, in reference to securing rolling time at a mill. Thomas had previously advised the plaintiff that there was available rolling time at the Sparrows Point Mill of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Thomas arranged a meeting between the plaintiff and Mr. Husted, manager of the Baltimore sales office of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, regarding this matter. At the meeting Mr. Husted informed plaintiff and his associate that he was not in a position to discuss the possibility of a conversion arrangement for a customer of the Pittsburgh office and, therefore, referred them to Bethlehem's Pittsburgh representative, Charles H. Cecil. Subsequently Thomas and Newbaker had a meeting with Mr. Cecil in Pittsburgh, at which time they discussed the defendant's requirements. Cecil advised them that he would communicate with the home office and let Mr. Newbaker know what could be done to procure the necessary rolling time. Plaintiff had available 6,000 gross tons of ingots which could be supplied by the Brown Steel Products Company upon specifications satisfactory to the defendant. The day after the meeting with Cecil defendant sent the following letter of cancellation to the plaintiff: "Dear Sir: After contact and discussion with the mill representative to whom you referred us regarding the conversion of steel ...

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