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In re The Petition of the Norwich and New York Transportation Company.

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petitioners, and the schooner General S. Van Vliet, then owned by William A. Wright and others. It occurred on Long Island Sound, nearly opposite Huntington, and it was caused by the negligence of the steamboat's officers or hands, without any design, neglect, privity or knowledge of her owners. Very soon, within half an hour, after the collision, the boat took fire, her deck and upper works were burned off, and she sank in about twenty fathoms of water. The fire was a direct consequence of the collision and inseparable from it. It was caused by the rushing of the water through the broken hull of the boat, whereby the fire was driven out of the furnaces upon the wood work, and the boat sank by reason of her filling with water. At the time of the disaster the boat had a cargo of merchandise on board, belonging to different freighters, all of which was totally lost. The freight then pending amounted to six hundred dollars, but none of it was earned, or received, by the ship owners. Sometime after the steamboat was sunk, and her cargo destroyed, as aforesaid, she was raised by salvors, taken to the Long Island shore, where she was repaired, and she was subsequently brought to the port of New York. On the 9th day of May, 1866,

William A. Wright and others, the owners of the schooner, filed, in the District Court for the District of Connecticut, a libel against the petitioners, The Norwich and New York Transportation Company, the owners of the steamboat, to recover damages in personam, for the loss of the schooner and her cargo, caused by the collision. To this libel an was put in, denying any fault of the steamboat; and the respondents also preferred a claim to the benefits of the Act of Congress of March 3d, 1851, (9 U. S. Stat. at Large, 635,) limiting the liability of ship owners. On the 23d of April, 1867, a final decree was made by this Court, in favor of these libellants, adjudging to them and to the owners of the schooner's cargo the sum of $26,657 28. (1 Benedict, 156.) From this decree an appeal was taken to the Circuit Court, where it was affirmed, (8 Blatchf. C. C. R., 14,) and it was subsequently affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United


In re The Petition of the Norwich and New York Transportation Company.

States. (Norwich Co. v. Wright, 13 Wallace, 104.) The affirmance by the latter Court was at its December Term, 1871. On the 23d of August, 1866, while the suit in the District Court of Connecticut was pending, and after the steamboat had been raised, repaired and brought into the port of New York, George and Charles Place, two of the appellants, filed their libel in rem against her, in the Eastern District of New York, claiming as owners of part of her cargo.

Other libels in rem were also filed at the suit of other owners of cargo. In due course the steamboat was seized by the marshal, and, the petitioners having intervened as claimants, an appraisement was ordered, and, a stipulation for the appraised value, in the sum of $70,000, having been given, the steamboat was released to them. (1 Benedict, 89.) The stipulation purported to be for the security not only of the Messrs. Place, but also for the benefit of all persons who might, by due proceedings in said Court, show themselves entitled to liens upon the vessel by reason of the said collision. The appraisement was of the value of the vessel as it was after she had been raised and repaired. It was returned into the Court on the 11th of March, 1867, and the stipulation in the amount of the appraisement was filed on the 29th day of the same month. On the 20th day of December, 1869, the District Court ordered decrees to be entered in favor of the libellants, in all the suits commenced against the steamer, as aforesaid. (3 Benedict, 575.) Such was the condition of the litigation when the present petition was filed, in July, 1872, after the rendition of the judgment by the Supreme Court, in the case of the libel of William A. Wright and others, in the District Court of Connecticut. The petition prayed, that, in conformity with the Act of Congress, the decision of the Supreme Court, and the Admiralty Rules made in pursuance thereof, (13 Wallace, xii,) the Court would cause an appraisement to be made of the value of the interest of the petitioners in the steamboat and her freight for the voyage in which she was employed, for which they were liable, and that an order should be made for paying the amount of such valuation into

In re The Petition of the Norwich and New York Transportation Company.

Court, or for giving a stipulation therefor with sureties. It prayed, further, for a monition against all persons claiming damages arising out of the said collision and fire, citing them to appear and make proof of their claims, and it prayed, also, for a restraining order against the further prosecution of all or any suits against the steamboat or the petitioners, for any

damages caused by the collision, fire and loss. There was, also, a prayer for general relief. The monition was issued, the appellants appeared, and an order was made for an appraisement of the amount of the value of the interest of the petitioners, as owners respectively of said steamboat and her freight pending for the voyage upon which she was employed, for which the petitioners were liable. A restraining order, as prayed for, was also made. Pursuant to the direction of the Court, (6 Benedict, 330,) an appraisement was made. The appraiser ascertained and reported the value of the steamboat as she lay immediately after the collision and fire, and before she was raised, to have been $2,500, and the District Court confirmed the report, (8 Benedict, 312,) and ordered the amount to be paid into the registry, which was accordingly done. The value of the interest of the petitioners in the steamboat, as she was immediately after the disaster, was $2,500, and no more. The value of that interest immediately before the collision was $70,000.

When the collision occurred the steamboat was insured against fire, (not against marine disaster,) and upon the several policies the petitioners, as owners, have recovered from the underwriters the sum of $19,283 67. The steamboat itself has never been surrendered or transferred to a trustee for the persons injured by her fault."

J. W. C. Leveridge, for the Norwich and New York Transportation Co.

J. Langdon Ward and Kittridge & Rice, for owners of cargo.

R. H. Huntley, for William A. Wright and others.

Vol. XVII.-15

In re The Petition of the Norwich and New York Transportation Company.

STRONG, J. In The Norwich and New York Transportation Company v. Wright, (13 Wall., 104,) a case in which these petitioners, and some of the appellants, were parties, the Act of Congress of March 3d, 1851, (9 U. S. Stat. at Large, 635,) entitled “An Act to limit the liability of ship owners, and for other purposes," was under consideration. Some things were then determined which I am not at liberty to disregard. Among them were the following: (1.) The Act adopts the rule of the general maritime law, as measuring the liability of ship owners for faults of the master, by which others are injured, and not the rules of the English statutes relating to the same subject; (2.) The rule is applicable to the claims of all persons injured by a collision, as well as to claims by freighters of cargo on the offending vessel ; (3.) The present petitioners are entitled to the protection of the Act against the owners of the colliding schooner; (4.) They are not debarred by any laches of theirs; (5.) The District Court, sitting as a Court of Admiralty, has jurisdiction to administer the law. In that case, also, the proper mode of proceeding for obtaining the benefit of the Act was pointed out, and the course directed has been substantially followed in the present

An appraisement of the steamboat has been made, under the direction of the District Court, and an apportionment has been ordered. The important question now, the question raised by these appeals, is, whether the sum to be apportioned has been correctly ascertained, and whether it is all that for which the petitioners, who are the owners of the steamboat, are liable.

The limit of liability prescribed by the Act of Congress is, that it shall in no case exceed the amount or value of the interest of the owner or owners in the offending ship or ressel, and her freight then pending. This presents the question—at what point of time is the value of the owner's interest to be taken? Is the measure of the owner's liability, or its maximum, the value of the ship and her freight before the injury was donel or the value at some time subsequent to the injury, when proceedings may be instituted to ascertain its


In re The Petition of the Norwich and New York Transportation Company.

amount? or is it the value immediately after the fault has been committed, as, for example, in a case of collision, immediately following the destruction caused by it?

Very clearly, it is not the former. The English statutes restricting the liability of ship owners do not adopt the measure recognized by the general maritime law. They measure the extent to which the owners of an offending vessel are liable, by the value of that vessel immediately before the collision, adding the freight due, or to grow due, for and during the voyage; and they make no provision for the abandonment or surrender of the vessel. Such has been the construction given to them, first, by the Courts of common law and Chancery, and followed by the Courts of Admiralty. (Brown v. Wilkinson, 15 M. & W., 391 ; Wilson v. Dickson, 2 Barn. & Al., 2; Dobree v. Schroeder, 6 Sim., 291; The Mary Caroline, 3 W. Rob., 101.) The English Courts have founded their judgments upon the statutes. They do not attempt to assert that such is the rule of the maritime law of the Continent. Indeed, in England, the general maritime law has never been adopted, in all its breadth.

But it is the rule of that law which is to be applied to this case. Even if it were not the rule in this country, without the aid of any statute, (upon which I express no opinion,) it is the rule which Congress has adopted and prescribed. By the maritime law, all that the sufferers by the misconduct of an offending vessel are entitled to is the vessel itself, after the injury has been committed, together with her freight. The liability of the owners is discharged by the surrender of the vessel and freight. Their loss, therefore, cannot exceed the value of the thing surrendered. What it may have been worth before the injury was committed is immaterial. Now, it is this measure of liability, recognized by the general maritime law, which the Act of Congress has adopted, instead of the English measure. It follows, necessarily, that the steamboat owners are not liable to the extent of the value of the vessel immediately before the collision. And such I under

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