Snow v. Hill
THIS was an appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the eastern district of Louisiana, sitting in admiralty.
On the night of the 5th November, 1852, a collision occurred at about midnight, in the Mississippi river, at a point about twenty miles below the city of New Orleans, between the steamship Crescent City and the ship Ocean Queen, then in tow of the steam tow-boat Star. The Crescent City was at the time ascending the river, bound for New Orleans. The tow-boat Star was descending the river, having in tow, on her starboard side, the ship Charles and Jane, on her larboard side the ship Ocean Queen, and astern the brig Telegraph. The ships on either side of the tow-boat were firmly lashed to the latter, their bows projecting some distance beyond those of the tow-boat-the brig was about forty fathoms astern. The effect of the collision was to cause damage to both the colliding vessels-and to the ship Ocean Queen, to such an extent as to compel her to return to New Orleans, take out her cargo, and there undergo extensive repairs.
The owners of the Ocean Queen libelled both the tow-boat Star and the steamship Crescent City. The owners of the Crescent City libelled the Ocean Queen and the tow-boat Star, to recover the damages they had sustained. The owners of the tow-boat Star libelled the steamship Crescent City, for the damages she sustained in the collision.
The cases were by consent consolidated and tried together.
The cause having been brought to a hearing before the Hon. T. H. McCaleb, judge of the District Court, on the 4th March, 1854, he pronounced a decree declaring that the collision was attributable to the improper position in the river and the bad management of the tow-boat Star; and he ordered a reference to a commissioner, to ascertain and report the amount of damage sustained by the Ocean Queen.
On the 18th May, 1854, the report of the commissioner was confirmed, and a decree was made in favor of the owners of the Ocean Queen against the stipulators of the tow-boat Star for $19,465.79, with interest from the 10th January, 1953, and costs.
The libel against the Crescent City was dismissed, with costs.
On the 25th May, 1852, the Ocean Tow-boat Company appealed to the Circuit Court, from the decree in favor of the owners of the Ocean Queen.
On the 8th June, 1854, the owners of the Ocean Queen appealed to the Circuit Court, from that part of the decree of the 18th May which dismissed the libel against the Crescent City, with costs.
In November, 1854, these appeals were argued before the Circuit Court; and on the 18th June, 1855, a decree was made, affirming that of the court below, in favor of the owners of the Ocean Queen, against the tow-boat Star, for the aforesaid sum of $19,465.79, with interest from the 10th January, 1853, and costs.
It further ordered the United States Mail Steamship Company to pay the costs of the action of the owners of the Ocean Queen against the Crescent City.
It was referred to a commissioner to ascertain the entire damage arising from the collision, and to apportion it between the United States Mail Steamship Company, claimant of the Crescent City, and the Ocean Tow-boat Company, claimant of steamboat Star, according to the admiralty rule, where there has been mutual fault, each company to bear its own costs.
On the 29th of June, 1855, the Ocean Tow-boat Company appealed to this court from this decree.
The owners of the Ocean Queen appealed to this court from so much of the decree of the Circuit Court as discharged the owners of the Crescent City from liability to them.
In November, 1857, the commissioner made his report of the entire damages occasioned by the collision to the several vessels, and the parties to the several actions, by their respective proctors, having filed their written consent to the entry of a decree confirming the report, on the 21st November, 1857, a final decree was entered in the said actions in favor of Charles Hill and others, owners of the Ocean Queen, against Thomas A. Snow and Oliver Palmer, managers of the Ocean Tow-boat Company, and Oliver Palmer, their surety, the sum of $19,465.79, with interest at the rate of five per cent. per annum, and costs of suit.
It further decreed that the Ocean Tow-boat Company, upon the payment of the said last-mentioned sum, should recover from the United States Mail Steamship Company, and Arnold Harris and Frederick Fisher, their sureties, the sum of $9,732.89, the one-half of the amount of the damages sustained by the Ocean Queen, with interest, at the rate of five per cent., and one-half of the costs of the suit.
There were other points in the decree, which need not be mentioned.
There were then three appeals pending before this court, viz:
CHARLES HILL ET AL., IMPLEADED WITH THE STEAMSHIP CRESCENT CITY,
OCEAN TOW-BOAT COMPANY.
CHARLES HILL ET AL.
THE UNITED STATES MAIL STEAMSHIP COMPANY.
CHARLES HILL ET AL.
THE UNITED STATES STEAMSHIP COMPANY.
The cases were finally narrowed down to the one which is at the caption of this report, and which was argued by Mr. Cushing on behalf of the Ocean Queen,Mr. Cutting on behalf of the Crescent City, and Mr. Benjamin on behalf of the Ocean Tow-boat Company, owners of the Star.
The arguments upon both sides were chiefly drawn from the evidence in the case, which was somewhat contradictory. A summary of that portion of it upon which the judgment was based, will be found in the opinion of the court.
Mr. Justice McLEAN delivered the opinion of the court.