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New York and Liverpool United States Mail Steamship Company v. Rumball

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

62 U.S. 372

New York and Liverpool United States Mail Steamship Company  v.  Rumball

THIS was an appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the southern district of New York, sitting in admiralty.

The case is fully stated in the opinion of the court.

It was argued by Mr. Potter for the appellants, and by Mr. De Forest for the appellee.

In cases of collision, it is difficult to make an abstract of the arguments of counsel, because the whole evidence is before the court, and resorted to by both sides in support of the positions which they respectively take. The reporter can only state the points which were made, without the arguments to sustain them.

On the part of the appellants, it was contended:

1. The collision was caused by the brig. She changed her course, and ran into the steamer.

2. But if it be considered that the brig did not change her course, still she ran into the steamer while endeavoring to get out of her way, when she could easily have avoided it.

3. In any event, the steamer was not in fault, every effort on her part being used to avoid the collision.

4. There are two points on which the proofs differ. 1. The general course of the brig. 2. The time the brig showed a light previous to the collision. Both these are assumed, by the decree, to be as claimed by the libellant. Now it is, we think, mathematically demonstrable that, if these matters are as claimed, a collision could not have occurred.

5. The libellant has the burden of proof. To recover, he must make it appear that the steamer was in fault, and not leave the question of fault in doubt.

6. In any event, the damages were excessive. The libellant was only entitled to the actual damage caused by the collision, viz: the cost of bringing the brig into port and refitting her.

The counsel for the appellee made the following points:

1. The steamer's course was east half south at the time the brig's light was reported. The wind was free for the steamer; all her sails and studding-sails were set; her speed was about 12 1/2 knots.

2. There is a slight disagreement among the witnesses as to the direction of the wind, but the difference is not material.

3. The brig was sailing on the wind, northwest by west, close hauled, on the larboard tack, her track converging toward that of the steamer, and her speed about three to four knots.

4. The position of the brig, when her light was first discovered, was somewhat to the southward of the original track of the steamer.

5. There is no substantial difference between the witnesses as to the state of the atmosphere and weather, at the time of the collision. The night was not unusually dark, and the atmosphere not thick.

6. It appears very clearly, from the testimony on both sides, that the vessels were several miles apart when the light of the brig was first displayed. This is proved directly, and is to be inferred from various independent facts.

Mr. Justice CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).