Atlee v. Packet Company
APPEAL from the Circuit Court for the District of Iowa.
The Union Packet Company filed a libel in admiralty, in the District Court of Iowa, against Atlee, founded on the sinking of a barge, for which he, Atlee, was charged to be liable, on the ground that it was caused by a collision with a stone pier built by him in the navigable part of the Mississippi River.
The pier was built in the winter of 1870-71; the collision occurred in April, 1871.
The District Court was of opinion that Atlee had not exceeded his rights as a riparian owner in building the pier where it was, in aid of his business as a lumberman and owner of a saw-mill on the bank of the river, the pier being part of a boom to retain his logs until needed for sawing. But that court was further of opinion that by failing to have a light on this pier during a dark night, Atlee was guilty of a fault which rendered him in part responsible for the collision. As, however, the libellants were also found to be in fault, for want of care and knowledge of this obstruction on the part of the pilot, the District Court divided the damages, and rendered a decree against Atlee for half of them.
The Circuit Court was of opinion that Atlee had no right to erect the pier where it was, and, seeing no fault on the part of the pilot, decreed the whole damage against Atlee. He accordingly appealed to this court.
The appeal was submitted to this court on printed argument, November 26th, 1873, and the decree of the Circuit Court was affirmed by an equal division of the court, which was at that time composed of eight members. On application for rehearing, this decree of affirmance was set aside and a reargument ordered on the question whether the damages should be apportioned, both parties being in fault.
The reargument was accordingly made by briefs at this term, the court being now full, and the whole matter reconsidered.
Mr. G. W. McCrary, for the appellant; Mr. H. S. Howell, contra.
Mr. Justice MILLER now delivered the judgment of the court, stating, at the same time, the more particular and necessary facts of the case.