275 U.S. 303 (1927), 102, Robins Dry Dock & Repair Company v. Flint

Docket Nº:No. 102
Citation:275 U.S. 303, 48 S.Ct. 134, 72 L.Ed. 290
Party Name:Robins Dry Dock & Repair Company v. Flint
Case Date:December 12, 1927
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 303

275 U.S. 303 (1927)

48 S.Ct. 134, 72 L.Ed. 290

Robins Dry Dock & Repair Company



No. 102

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 12, 1927

Argued December 1, 1927




The owners of a vessel, remaining in their possession while time-chartered to the plaintiffs, docked her with the defendant under a provision of the charter for docking every six months and suspension of payment of hire by the plaintiffs until she was again ready for service. Defendant injured the vessel by negligence, causing delay, repaired her, settled with the owners, and received a release of all their claims. Defendant had no notice of the charter until

Page 304

the delay had begun.

Held, that plaintiffs had no cause of action against the defendant for the loss of use of the vessel caused by the negligence, since

(1) The docking contract between the owner and defendant was not for the plaintiffs' direct benefit. P. 307.

(2) No right of recovery could be based upon the ground that plaintiffs had a property interest in or right in rem against the ship. P. 308.

(3) A tort to the person or property of one man does not make the tortfeasor liable to another merely because the injured person was under a contract with that other, unknown to the doer of the wrong. P. 309.

(4) Plaintiffs, having no claim against the defendant in contract or in tort, could gain no standing on the theory that the owners, in addition to their own damages, might have recovered those of the plaintiffs, on the analogy of bailees, who, if allowed to recover full value, are chargeable over. P. 310.

13 F.2d 3 reversed.

Certiorari, 273 U.S. 679, to a decree of the circuit court of appeals affirming a recovery of damages in the district court in a suit in admiralty brought by the respondents against the petitioner.

Page 307

HOLMES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a libel by time charterers of the steamship Bjornefjord against the dry dock company to recover for the loss of use of the steamer between August 1 and August 15, 1917. The libellants recovered in both courts below. 13 F.2d 3. A writ of certiorari was granted by this Court. 273 U.S. 679.

By the terms of the charter party, the steamer was to be docked at least once in every six months, and payment of the hire was to be suspended until she was again in proper state for service. In accordance with these terms, the vessel was [48 S.Ct. 135] delivered to the petitioner and docked, and while there the propeller was so injured by the petitioner's negligence that a new one had to be put in, thus causing the delay for which this suit is brought. The petitioner seems to have had no notice of the charter party until the delay had begun, but, on August 10, 1917, was formally advised by the respondents that they should hold it liable. It settled with the owners on December 7, 1917, and received a release of all their claims.

The present libel "in a cause of contract and damage" seems to have been brought in reliance upon allegation that the contract for dry docking between the petitioner and the owners "was made for the benefit of the libellants and was incidental to the aforesaid charter party," etc. But it is plain, as stated by the circuit court of appeals, that the libellants, respondents here, were not parties to...

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