Joseph Martin v. Steamship Southwark, No. 12

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDay
Citation48 L.Ed. 65,191 U.S. 1,24 S.Ct. 1
Decision Date19 October 1903
Docket NumberNo. 12
PartiesJOSEPH J. MARTIN, Alfred M. Fuller, and Thomas B. Schriver, Copartners, Trading as Martin, Fuller, & Co., Libellants, Petitioners , v. STEAMSHIP SOUTHWARK, Whereof the International Navigation Company is Owner, Respt

191 U.S. 1
24 S.Ct. 1
48 L.Ed. 65
JOSEPH J. MARTIN, Alfred M. Fuller, and Thomas B. Schriver, Copartners, Trading as Martin, Fuller, & Co., Libellants, Petitioners,

v.

STEAMSHIP SOUTHWARK, Whereof the International Navigation Company is Owner, Respt.

No. 12.
Argued March 3, 1903.
Decided October 19, 1903.

Messrs. John F. Lewis and Horace L. Cheyney for petitioners.

Page 2

This case originated in a libel in rem filed in the district court of the United States for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, to recover for the loss of a quantity of dressed beef, shipped by the libellants on the steamer Southwark, a vessel belonging to the respondent, the International Navigation Company. The meat was required to be kept chilled during the passage, and the ship was engaged in the business of carrying such freight and was fitted with a refrigerating apparatus for the purpose. The meat was received under a bill of lading acknowledging the receipt thereof in apparent good order and condition, and undertaking to deliver the same at Liverpool in like good order and condition. Across the bill of lading there was this printed stipulation: 'It is expressly provided that the goods shipped hereunder are absolutely at the risk of the owners in every respect, and that the carrier is responsible for no loss, delay, or damage thereto, however arising, including stowage, and all risks of breakdown or injury, however caused, whether to its refrigerator or its machinery, even though arising from defect existing at or previous to the commencement of the voyage; also that, in case of the meat becoming, from any cause, in the opinion of the master of the vessel, putrid, dangerous or offensive to the passengers or the crew, it may be thrown overboard or otherwise disposed of without liability to the carrier for the consequent loss.'

Upon the arrival of the ship at Liverpool, the meat was found to be in bad condition, mouldy and slimy, resulting in a considerable loss to the shipper. The libel seeks a recovery because the refrigerating apparatus was out of repair at the time of sailing, and was not repaired during the voyage, so that the temperature of the compartment in which the meat was carried could not be reduced to the proper degree for its safe transportation.

The answer avers that the Southwark left Philadelphia with

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the refrigerating apparatus in perfect order after due inspection, and all necessary repairs were duly and promptly made while on the voyage.

Upon hearing in the district court, a decree was entered exonerating the vessel from fault, which decree was affirmed in the circuit court of appeals. 104 Fed. 103, 48 C. C. A. 123, 108 Fed. 880.

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Messrs. N. DuBois Miller, Howard H. Ybcum, J. Rodman Paul, and Messrs. Biddle & Ward for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 4-6 intentionally omitted]

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Mr. Justice Day, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:

Before the passage of the act of Congress of February 13, 1893 (27 Stat. at L. 445, chap. 105, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 2946), known as the Harter act, it was the settled law of this court that, in the absence of special contract, there was a warranty upon the part of the shipowner that the ship was seaworthy at the beginning of her voyage. The warranty was absolute, and not depend upon the knowledge of the owner, or the diligence of his efforts to provide a seaworthy vessel. The Caledonia, 157 U. S. 124, 39 L. ed. 644, 15 Sup. Ct. Rep. 537; The Edwin I. Morrison, 153 U. S. 199, 38 L. ed. 688, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 823; The Irrawaddy, 171 U. S. 187, sub nom. Flint v. Christall, 43 L. ed. 130, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 831.

After its passage, this act became the rule of law for cases coming within its terms. In § 2 it is expressly provided that it shall be unlawful for any vessel transporting property or merchandise from or between ports of the United States and foreign ports to insert in any bills of lading or shipping documents any covenant or agreement whereby the obligation of the owner to use due diligence to properly equip, man, provision, and outfit said vessel, and to make the vessel seaworthy and capable of performing her intended voyage, shall in anywise be lessened, weakened, or avoided. In this connection, Mr. Justice Brown, in speaking of the nature and origin of this law, in the case of The Delaware, 161 U. S. 471, 40 L. ed. 776, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 516, used this language: 'The act was the outgrowth of

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attempts made in recent years to limit, as far as possible, the liability of the vessel and her owners, by inserting in bills of lading stipulations against losses arising from unseaworthiness, bad stowage, and negligence in navigation, and other forms of liability, which had been held by the courts of England, if not of this country, to be valid as contracts, and to be respected even when they exempted the ship from the consequences of her own negligence. As decisions were made by the courts from time to time, holding the vessel for nonexcepted liabilities, new clauses were inserted in the bills of lading to meet these decisions, until the common-law responsibility of carriers by sea had been frittered away to such an extent that several of the leading commercial associations, both in this country and in England, had taken the subject in hand, and suggested amendments to the maritime law in line with those embodied in the Harter act.' This language, no doubt, had reference to the prohibitive provisions of § 2 of the act.

Section 3 must be read with § 2 to effectuate the purpose of the act, and shows an intention upon the part of Congress to relax, in certain respects, the harshness of the previous rules of obligation upon shipowners, provided the owner shall exercise due diligence to make the vessel seaworthy in all respects, in which event neither the vessel nor the owner shall be liable, among other things, for faults of management or from loss from inherent defect, quality, or vice of the thing carried. Of this feature of the law it was said by Mr. Justice Shiras, delivering the opinion of the court in the case of The Irrawaddy, 171 U. S. 192, 193, sub nom. Flint v. Christall, 43 L. ed. 132, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 833: 'Plainly, the main purposes of the act were to relieve the shipowner from liability for latent defects not discoverable by the utmost care and diligence, and, in event that he has exercised due diligence to make his vessel seaworthy, to exempt him and the ship from responsibility for damage or loss resulting from faults or errors in navigation, or in the management of the vessel. . . . Although the foundation of the rule that

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forbade shipowners to contract for exemption from liability for negligence in their agents and employees was in the decisions of the courts that such contracts were against public policy, it was, nevertheless, competent for Congress to make a change in the standard of duty, and it is plainly the duty of courts to conform in their decisions to the policy so declared.'

The effect of this law is not to relieve the owner from the general duty of furnishing a seaworthy ship, but to limit his liability in certain particulars and upon the condition named in the statute. The Carib Prince, 170 U. S. 655, 42 L. ed. 1181, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 753. Before the passage of the act, the initial obligation could be limited in certain particulars by special contract not involving negligence of the owner. Since the passage of the act, as to cases coming within its terms, before the owner can have the benefit of the relief provided by § 3 he must have exercised due diligence to provide a seaworthy vessel, capable of performing her intended voyage. Obviously, a cargo of dressed beef to be shipped a long distance is one which, from the inherent quality of the thing carried, is liable to loss unless properly stowed in rooms artificially chilled for the purpose of preserving it.

We proceed to inquire whether the furnishing of a refrigerating apparatus in good order and repair, competent for the purpose required, was within the obligation imposed by the Harter act as a condition precedent to the enjoyment of the benefits of the act in limiting the owner's liability as provided therein.

Bouvier's Law Dictionary, vol. 2, p. 506, defines 'seaworthiness' to be: 'In maritime law, the sufficiency of the vessel in materials, construction, equipment, officers, men, and outfit for the trade or service in which it is employed.' And the same author further says: 'It can never be settled by positive rules of law how far this obligation of seaworthiness extends in any particular case, for the reason that improvements and changes in the means and modes of navigation frequently require new implements or new forms of old ones; and these, though not

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189 practice notes
  • Doucette v. Vincent, No. 4586.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 5, 1952
    ...equipment, stores, officers, men and outfit for the trade or 194 F.2d 838 service in which the vessel is employed. The Southwark, 1903, 191 U.S. 1, 8, 9, 24 S.Ct. 1, 48 L.Ed. 65; The Rolph, 9 Cir., 1924, 299 F. 52, 54, 55. See also, May v. Hamburg etc. Gesellschaft, 1933, 290 U.S. 333, 346,......
  • Solet v. M/V CAPT. HV DUFRENE, Civ. A. No. 67-1713.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • August 19, 1969
    ...Cir. 1954, 214 F.2d 410. The term `seaworthiness' is read to mean, inter alia, fitness for the use anticipated. See The Southwark, 1903, 191 U.S. 1, 24 S.Ct. 1, 48 L.Ed. 65." Horn v. Cia de Navegacion Fruco, S.A., 5 Cir. 1968, 404 F.2d 422, 428. 4 The Osceola, 1903, 189 U.S. 158, 23 S.Ct. 4......
  • Kimberling v. Wabash Ry. Co., No. 32531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 30, 1935
    ...Liability Act. Authorities under Point 1(b); Davis v. Wolfe, 263 U.S. 239, 44 Sup. Ct. 64, 68 L. Ed. 284; Johnson v. Railroad Co., 191 U.S. 1, 25 Sup. Ct. 158, 49 L. Ed. 363; Southern Railroad Co. v. Schneider, 187 Fed. 492, 109 C.C.A. 344; Truesdale v. Wheelock, 74 S.W. (2d) 585; Spokane &......
  • Earles v. Union Barge Line Corporation, No. 72-1313
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • May 23, 1973
    ...17 Fed.Cas. p. 894 (No. 9,875) (D.C.S.D.N.Y.1846). 19 The Silvia, 171 U.S. 462, 464, 19 S.Ct. 7, 8, 43 L.Ed. 241 (1898). 20 The Southwark, 191 U.S. 1, 24 S.Ct. 1, 48 L.Ed. 65 21 189 U.S. 158, 23 S.Ct. 483, 47 L.Ed. 760 (1903). In The Osceola, the United States Supreme Court stated as the se......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
189 cases
  • Doucette v. Vincent, No. 4586.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 5, 1952
    ...equipment, stores, officers, men and outfit for the trade or 194 F.2d 838 service in which the vessel is employed. The Southwark, 1903, 191 U.S. 1, 8, 9, 24 S.Ct. 1, 48 L.Ed. 65; The Rolph, 9 Cir., 1924, 299 F. 52, 54, 55. See also, May v. Hamburg etc. Gesellschaft, 1933, 290 U.S. 333, 346,......
  • Solet v. M/V CAPT. HV DUFRENE, Civ. A. No. 67-1713.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • August 19, 1969
    ...Cir. 1954, 214 F.2d 410. The term `seaworthiness' is read to mean, inter alia, fitness for the use anticipated. See The Southwark, 1903, 191 U.S. 1, 24 S.Ct. 1, 48 L.Ed. 65." Horn v. Cia de Navegacion Fruco, S.A., 5 Cir. 1968, 404 F.2d 422, 428. 4 The Osceola, 1903, 189 U.S. 158, 23 S.Ct. 4......
  • Kimberling v. Wabash Ry. Co., No. 32531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 30, 1935
    ...Liability Act. Authorities under Point 1(b); Davis v. Wolfe, 263 U.S. 239, 44 Sup. Ct. 64, 68 L. Ed. 284; Johnson v. Railroad Co., 191 U.S. 1, 25 Sup. Ct. 158, 49 L. Ed. 363; Southern Railroad Co. v. Schneider, 187 Fed. 492, 109 C.C.A. 344; Truesdale v. Wheelock, 74 S.W. (2d) 585; Spokane &......
  • Earles v. Union Barge Line Corporation, No. 72-1313
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • May 23, 1973
    ...17 Fed.Cas. p. 894 (No. 9,875) (D.C.S.D.N.Y.1846). 19 The Silvia, 171 U.S. 462, 464, 19 S.Ct. 7, 8, 43 L.Ed. 241 (1898). 20 The Southwark, 191 U.S. 1, 24 S.Ct. 1, 48 L.Ed. 65 21 189 U.S. 158, 23 S.Ct. 483, 47 L.Ed. 760 (1903). In The Osceola, the United States Supreme Court stated as the se......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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