Code of the District of Columbia

§ 28:7-503. Document of title to goods defeated in certain cases.

(a) A document of title confers no right in goods against a person that before issuance of the document had a legal interest or a perfected security interest in the goods and that did not:

(1) Deliver or entrust the goods or any document of title covering the goods to the bailor or the bailor’s nominee with:

(A) Actual or apparent authority to ship, store, or sell;

(B) Power to obtain delivery under § 28:7-403; or

(C) Power of disposition under § 28:2-403, 28:2A-304, 28:2A-305, 28:9-320, or 28:9-321(c) or other statute or rule of law; or

(2) Acquiesce in the procurement by the bailor or its nominee of any document.

(b) Title to goods based upon an unaccepted delivery order is subject to the rights of any person to which a negotiable warehouse receipt or bill of lading covering the goods has been duly negotiated. That title may be defeated under § 28:7-504 to the same extent as the rights of the issuer or a transferee from the issuer.

(c) Title to goods based upon a bill of lading issued to a freight forwarder is subject to the rights of any person to which a bill issued by the freight forwarder is duly negotiated. However, delivery by the carrier in accordance with Part 4 of this article pursuant to its own bill of lading discharges the carrier’s obligation to deliver.


(Dec. 30, 1963, 77 Stat. 729, Pub. L. 88-243, § 1; Oct. 26, 2000, D.C. Law 13-201, § 201(h), 47 DCR 7576; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-299, § 9, 60 DCR 2634.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28:7-503.

1973 Ed., § 28:7-503.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 28:7-403 and § 28:7-502.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-201, enacting a new Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code applicable July 1, 2001, made conforming amendments to this section applicable upon the same date.

Uniform Commercial Code Comment

Prior Uniform Statutory Provision: Section 33, Uniform Sales Act; Section 41, Uniform Warehouse Receipts Act; Section 32, Uniform Bills of Lading Act.

Changes: Subsection (1) narrows, as compared to the cited sections, the occasions for defeating the document holder’s title.

Purposes of Changes: 1. In general it may be said that the title of a purchaser by due negotiation prevails over almost any interest in the goods which existed prior to the procurement of the document of title if the possession of the goods by the person obtaining the document derived from any action by the prior claimant which introduced the goods into the stream of commerce or carried them along that stream. A thief of the goods cannot indeed by shipping or storing them to his own order acquire power to transfer them to a good faith purchaser. Nor can a tenant or mortgagor defeat any rights of a landlord or mortgagee which have been perfected under the local law merely by wrongfully shipping or storing a portion of the crop or other goods. However, “acquiescence” by the landlord or tenant does not require active consent under subsection (1)(b) and knowledge of the likelihood of storage or shipment with no objection or effort to control it is sufficient to defeat his rights as against one who takes by “due” negotiation of a negotiable document.

On the other hand, where goods are delivered to a factor for sale, even though the factor has made no advances and is limited in his duty to sell for cash, the goods are “entrusted” to him “with actual... authority... to sell” under subsection (1)(a), and if he procures a negotiable document of title he can transfer the owner’s interest to a purchaser by due negotiation. Further, where the factor is in the business of selling, goods entrusted to him simply for safekeeping or storage may be entrusted under circumstances which give him “apparent authority to ship, store or sell” under subsection (1)(a), or power of disposition under Section 2-403, 7-205 or 9-307, or under a statute such as the earlier Factors Acts, or under a rule of law giving effect to apparent ownership. See Section 1-103.

Persons having an interest in goods also frequently deliver or entrust them to agents or servants other than factors for the purpose of shipping or warehousing or under circumstances reasonably contemplating such action. Rounding out the case law development under the prior Acts, this Act is clear that such persons assume full risk that the agent to whom the goods are so delivered may ship or store in breach of duty, take a document to his own order and then proceed to misappropriate it. This Act makes no distinction between possession or mere custody in such situations and finds no exception in the case of larceny by a bailee or the like. The safeguard in such situations lies in the requirement that a due negotiation can occur only “in the regular course of business or financing“ and that the purchase be in good faith and without notice. See Section 7-501. Documents of title have no market among the commercially inexperienced and the commercially experienced do not take them without inquiry from persons known to be truck drivers or petty clerks even though such persons purport to be operating in their own names.

Again, where the seller allows a buyer to receive goods under a contract for sale, though as a “conditional delivery” or under “cash sale” terms and on explicit agreement for immediate payment, the buyer thereby acquires power to defeat the seller’s interest by transfer of the goods to certain good faith purchasers. See Section 2-403. Both in policy and under the language of subsection (1)(a) that same power must be extended to accomplish the same result if the buyer procures a negotiable document of title to the goods and duly negotiates it.

2. Under subsection (1) a delivery order issued by a person having no right in or power over the goods is ineffective unless the owner acts as provided in subsection (1)(a) or (b). Thus the rights of a transferee of a non-negotiable warehouse receipt can be defeated by a delivery order subsequently issued by the transferor only if the transferee “delivers or entrusts” to the “person procuring“ the delivery order or ‘’acquiesces“ in his procurement. Similarly, a second delivery order issued by the same issuer for the same goods will ordinarily be subject to the first, both under this section and under Section 7-402. After a delivery order is validly issued but before it is accepted, it may nevertheless be defeated under subsection (2) in much the same way that the rights of a transferee may be defeated under Section 7-504. For example, a buyer in ordinary course from the issuer may defeat the rights of the holder of a prior delivery order if the bailee receives notification of the buyer’s rights before notification of the holder’s rights. Section 7-504(2)(b). But an accepted delivery order has the same effect as a document issued by the bailee.

3. Under subsection (3) a bill of lading issued to a freight forwarder is subordinated to the freight forwarder’s certificate, since the bill on its face gives notice of the fact that a freight forwarder is in the picture and has in all probability issued a certificate. But the carrier is protected in following the terms of its own bill of lading.

Cross References: Point 1: Sections 2-403, 7-205, 7-501, 9-307, and 9-309.

Point 2: Sections 7-402 and 7-504.

Point 3: Sections 7-402, 7-403 and 7-404.

Definitional Cross References: “Bill of lading”. Section 1-201.

“Contract for sale”. Section 2-106.

“Delivery”. Section 1-201.

“Delivery order”. Section 7-102.

“Document”. Section 7-102.

“Document of title”. Section 1-201.

“Duly negotiate”. Section 7-501.

“Goods”. Section 7-102.

“Person”. Section 1-201.

“Right”. Section 1-201.

“Warehouse receipt”. Section 1-201.

Prior Uniform Statutory Provision: Former Section 7-503.

Changes: Changes to cross-reference to Article 2A and for style.

Purposes: 1. In general it may be said that the title of a purchaser by due negotiation prevails over almost any interest in the goods which existed prior to the procurement of the document of title if the possession of the goods by the person obtaining the document derived from any action by the prior claimant which introduced the goods into the stream of commerce or carried them along that stream. A thief of the goods cannot indeed by shipping or storing them to the thief’s own order acquire power to transfer them to a good faith purchaser. Nor can a tenant or mortgagor defeat any rights of a landlord or mortgagee which have been perfected under the local law merely by wrongfully shipping or storing a portion of the crop or other goods. However, “acquiescence” by the landlord or mortgagee does not require active consent under subsection (a)(2) and knowledge of the likelihood of storage or shipment with no objection or effort to control it is sufficient to defeat the landlord’s or the mortgagee’s rights as against one who takes by due negotiation of a negotiable document. In re Sharon Steel, 176 B.R. 384 (Bankr. W.D. Pa. 1995); In re R.V. Segars Co, 54 B.R. 170 (Bankr. S.C. 1985); In re Jamestown Elevators, Inc., 49 B.R. 661 (Bankr. N.D. 1985).

On the other hand, where goods are delivered to a factor for sale, even though the factor has made no advances and is limited in its duty to sell for cash, the goods are “entrusted” to the factor “with actual. .. authority. .. to sell” under subsection (a)(1), and if the factor procures a negotiable document of title it can transfer the owner’s interest to a purchaser by due negotiation. Further, where the factor is in the business of selling, goods entrusted to it simply for safekeeping or storage may be entrusted under circumstances which give the factor “apparent authority to ship, store or sell” under subsection (a)(1), or power of disposition under Section 2-403, 2A-304(2), 2A-305(2), 7-205, 9-320, or 9-321(c) or under a statute such as the earlier Factors Acts, or under a rule of law giving effect to apparent ownership. See Section 1-103.

Persons having an interest in goods also frequently deliver or entrust them to agents or servants other than factors for the purpose of shipping or warehousing or under circumstances reasonably contemplating such action. This Act is clear that such persons assume full risk that the agent to whom the goods are so delivered may ship or store in breach of duty, take a document to the agent’s own order and then proceed to misappropriate the negotiable document of title that embodies the goods. This Act makes no distinction between possession or mere custody in such situations and finds no exception in the case of larceny by a bailee or the like. The safeguard in such situations lies in the requirement that a due negotiation can occur only “in the regular course of business or financing” and that the purchase be in good faith and without notice. See Section 7-501. Documents of title have no market among the commercially inexperienced and the commercially experienced do not take them without inquiry from persons known to be truck drivers or petty clerks even though such persons purport to be operating in their own names.

Again, where the seller allows a buyer to receive goods under a contract for sale, though as a “conditional delivery” or under “cash sale” terms and on explicit agreement for immediate payment, the buyer thereby acquires power to defeat the seller’s interest by transfer of the goods to certain good faith purchasers. See Section 2-403. Both in policy and under the language of subsection (a)(1) that same power must be extended to accomplish the same result if the buyer procures a negotiable document of title to the goods and duly negotiates it.

This comment 1 should be considered in interpreting delivery, entrustment or acquiescence in application of Section 7-209(c)).

2. Under subsection (a) a delivery order issued by a person having no right in or power over the goods is ineffective unless the owner acts as provided in subsection (a)(1) or (2). Thus the rights of a transferee of a non-negotiable warehouse receipt can be defeated by a delivery order subsequently issued by the transferor only if the transferee “delivers or entrusts” to the “person procuring” the delivery order or “acquiesces” in that person’s procurement. Similarly, a second delivery order issued by the same issuer for the same goods will ordinarily be subject to the first, both under this section and under Section 7-402. After a delivery order is validly issued but before it is accepted, it may nevertheless be defeated under subsection (b) in much the same way that the rights of a transferee may be defeated under Section 7-504. For example, a buyer in ordinary course from the issuer may defeat the rights of the holder of a prior delivery order if the bailee receives notification of the buyer’s rights before notification of the holder’s rights. Section 7-504(b)(2). But an accepted delivery order has the same effect as a document issued by the bailee.

3. Under subsection (c) a bill of lading issued to a freight forwarder is subordinated to the freight forwarder’s document of title, since the bill on its face gives notice of the fact that a freight forwarder is in the picture and the freight forwarder has in all probability issued a document of title. But the carrier is protected in following the terms of its own bill of lading.

Cross References: Point 1: Sections 1-103, 2-403, 2A-304(2), 2A-305(2), 7-205, 7-209, 7-501, 9-320, 9-321(c), and 9-331.

Point 2: Sections 7-402 and 7-504.

Point 3: Sections 7-402, 7-403 and 7-404.

Definitional Cross References: “Bill of lading”. Section 1-201.

“Contract for sale”. Section 2-106.

“Delivery”. Section 1-201.

“Delivery order”. Section 7-102.

“Document of title”. Section 1-201.

“Duly negotiate”. Section 7-501.

“Goods”. Section 7-102.

“Person”. Section 1-201.

“Right”. Section 1-201.

“Warehouse receipt”. Section 1-201.