Heissenbuttel v. City of New York

Decision Date07 April 1887
Citation30 F. 456
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

E Henry Lacombe, for respondents.

Hyland & Zabriskie, for libelant.


There is no dispute in regard to the general rule that the proprietors of wharves and slips are responsible for damages caused to vessels coming to them in the usual course of business, when the damage arises from defects of which the owners have notice or are chargeable with knowledge. When a wharf or slip becomes dangerous, the law imposes upon owners the duty of giving reasonable notice and warning of the danger, in order that the public, accustomed to resort to them, may not be entrapped and injured. There is no difference, in principle, between repairs upon highways and upon wharves and slips in this respect, or in the duty of reasonable caution to the public. Shear. & R. Neg. Secs 498,585. This obligation, and the practice, to give warning in some conspicuous way of any obstruction in highways that are in course of repair, are well recognized. The evidence shows a practice somewhat similar in regard to wharves and slips, although it was claimed that the practice of inclosing the pier itself is rather for the convenience of the workmen. But the occasional use of a conspicuous notice to warn persons from dangerous piers or docks is a matter of common knowledge, and there can be no doubt that the want of any such notice or caution, where wharves or slips are dangerous is legal negligence in the proprietor or lessee, as the case may be.

Upon the completion of the new pier in this case, it was apparently ready for the public use. There was no notice or caution of any kind posed upon the premises warning persons away, nor any person present to give such warning. The appearance of the dock in a finished condition, and in its former place, so far as the public could judge, was by implication an invitation to the public to make use of it, in the absence of any caution to the contrary. It was a virtual opening of the dock for the public use. It is impracticable that vessels navigating rivers should first send ashore to make inquiries whether they can land at a dock apparently perfect and ready for use; nor, so far as appears, is there ordinarily any other mode of opening a dock to the public than by putting it in apparent complete readiness for use with no notice to the contrary.

Doubtless the city had a discretion as regards the time when it would complete the dredging, so as to make the landing fit for use but this discretion did not release it from its obligation not to mislead the public in the mean time by apparently offering...

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9 cases
  • Berwind-White Coal Mining Co. v. City of New York
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • April 30, 1943
    ...the change had made it unsafe; and, if so, to give adequate warning to those who might otherwise tie up there. Heissenbuttel v. Mayor, etc., of New York, D.C., 30 F. 456; The Cornell No. 20, D.C., 8 F.Supp. 431. Its neglect to do that was a breach of the duty it as a general wharfinger owed......
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • July 18, 1934
    ...for many reasons. See The William Nelson (D. C.) 206 F. 553; National Forwarding Co. v. Payne (D. C.) 297 F. 663; Heissenbuttel v. Mayor, etc., of New York (D. C.) 30 F. 456. The respondent, the railway company, was in almost daily telephonic communication with the Cornell Steamboat Company......
  • Constantine & Pickering S.S. Co. v. West India S.S. Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • October 30, 1912
    ...v. Burnett, 173 U.S. 430, 19 Sup.Ct. 442, 43 L.Ed. 756. See, to the same effect, Smith v. Havemeyer (C.C.) 36 F. 927; Heissenbuttel v. Mayor, etc. (D.C.) 30 F. 456. charterer's liability does not rest on an implied contract, as does that of the wharfinger, but on the express terms of his ch......
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • April 21, 1941
    ...The City was therefore a general wharfinger holding out the north side of the pier as a safe place to berth. See Heissenbuttel v. City of New York, D.C., 30 F. 456. The City made no inspection of the bottom along the north side of the pier after the trestle had been removed. It therefore fa......
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