Stevens v. the White City, No. 217

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBUTLER
Citation285 U.S. 195,52 S.Ct. 347,76 L.Ed. 699
Decision Date14 March 1932
Docket NumberNo. 217
PartiesSTEVENS v. THE WHITE CITY

285 U.S. 195
52 S.Ct. 347
76 L.Ed. 699
STEVENS

v.

THE WHITE CITY.

No. 217.
Argued Jan. 6, 1932.
Decided March 14, 1932.

[Syllabus from pages 195-196 intentionally omitted]

Page 196

Messrs. Neil P. Cullom and William F. Purdy, both of New York City, for petitioner.

Page 197

Mr. Chauncey I. Clark, of New York City, for respondent.

Mr. Justice BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, the assignee of the owner of a forty-five foot motorboat, the Drifter, filed a libel in admiralty in

Page 198

the Southern district of New York against respondent to recover for injury sustained by the former while being towed by the latter. The court held that the tug was a bailee of the tow, and that, it having been shown by the evidence that the former received the latter in good condition and delivered it damaged without being able to account for the injury, there was a presumption of negligence on the part of the tug, and that she must be held liable. 35 F.(2d) 1006. The Circuit Court of Appeals held the towage contract did not put the tow in bail to the tug, and that the mere fact of injury created no presumption of negligence, and reversed the decree. 48 F.(2d) 557.

Petitioner maintains that the tug was bailee for hire, and that, by proving the tug received the tow in good order and delivered it in a damaged condition, he made a prima facie case of negligence which cast upon such bailee the burden of showing the circumstances surrounding the damage. And he insists that, even if the presumption did not so arise, there was ample proof of negligence on the part of the owners of respondent.

The facts supported by the evidence, so far as they are material to these contentions, may be stated briefly as follows:

October 13, 1925, Roos, an employee of the Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation which had just completed the Drifter, made an agreement with Alexander Simpson for its towage from the builder's plant at Morris Heights in New York City of Port Newark alongside the steamer Suscalanco on which it was to be shipped. Later Simpson told Roos that the White City, an excursion boat owned by Herbert Simpson and one Rhodes, would do the towing. Roos told Simpson that the boat should be at the plant at 6 o'clock in the morning. Her owners brought her about 8 and were the only persons aboard at any time here involved. Employees of the builder as-

Page 199

sisted in attaching the Drifter, then in good condition, to the White City by a forty-foot rope. A cradle in which the former was to be stowed on the deck of the Suscalanco was attached by another rope about the same length to the stern of the Drifter. The builder put an employee, one Weston, on the Drifter, merely, as petitioner maintains, to tend lines when she was brought alongside the Suscalanco.

Respondent took the tow down the East River; the cradle became detached at Hell Gate; reattaching it caused delay of fifteen or twenty minutes, but no damage occurred to the Drifter at that time. Respondent continued down the river, across the Upper Bay, through Kill van Kull and into Newark Bay, where, about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, she sighted the Suscalanco going out to sea. Then the tug went to Fisher's Dock in Bayonne, and, her owners having learned by telephone that the shipment could be made on a later steamer, remained there over night. The Drifter was tied alongside the pier with fenders to prevent injury. Weston, with the acquiescence of the owners of the tug, went home for the night, but did not return. Simpson testified that on the morning following he went aboard the Drifter to steer her while she and the cradle were being towed to destination; that before leaving the dock he inspected her, and that she was in the same condition as when received. When they arrived at Port Newark, about 8 in the morning, the Drifter's hull planking was broken or damaged amidship on the starboard side just above the water line causing a dish-shaped depression about three-quarters of an inch deep, roughly circular, and about twelve or fourteen inches in diameter. At the trial it was suggested by way of explanation that the hole might have been made by a piece of driftwood of which there was much in the bay. But there was no evidence to show, and the trial court found that neither Rhodes nor simp-

Page 200

son could explain when, how, or where the damage happened.

Decisions of this Court show that under a towage contract the tug is not a bailee of the vessel in tow or its cargo. And it is established here and by numerous rulings of lower federal courts that evidence showing a tug's receipt of a tow in good order and delivery in damaged condition raises no presumption of negligence.

The supplying of power by a vessel, usually one propelled by steam, to tow or draw another is towage. Many vessels, such as barges and canal boats, have no power of their own and are built with a view to receiving their propelling force from other sources. And vessels having motive power often employ auxiliary power to assist them in moving about harbors and docks. Benedict on Admiralty (5th Ed.) § 100.

The tug does not have exclusive control over the tow, but only so far as is necessary to enable the tug and those in charge of her to...

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237 practice notes
  • Howard v. Mobile & Ohio Railroad Co., No. 32092.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 12, 1934
    ...222 Mo. 488, 121 S.W. 6; New York C. Railroad Co. v. Ambrose, 280 U.S. 486, 50 Sup. Ct. 198, 74 L. Ed. 562; Stevens v. The White City, 285 U.S. 195, 52 Sup. Ct. 347, 76 L. Ed. 699; Gunning v. Cooley, 281 U.S. 90, 50 Sup. Ct. 231, 74 L. Ed. 720. (3) The verdict for $14,500 for the loss of si......
  • Bisso v. Inland Waterways Corporation, No. 50
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 16, 1955
    ...If the tug is only a contract carrier, it is not liable for injury to the tow in the absence of negligence. See Stevens v. The White City, 285 U.S. 195, 52 S.Ct. 347, 76 L.Ed. 699. But though a contract carrier, the tug may as effectively command the market and have as complete control of t......
  • Fidelity & Deposit Co. v. Grand Nat. Bank of St. Louis, No. 9775.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • February 10, 1934
    ...C. A. 8) 58 F.(2d) 616; Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Chamberlain, 288 U. S. 333, 53 S. Ct. 391, 393, 77 L. Ed. 819; Stevens v. The White City, 285 U. S. 195, 52 S. Ct. 347, 76 L. Ed. 699; Cotten v. Halverson, 201 Iowa, 636, 207 N. W. 795, 798; Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co. v. De Parcq (C. C. A.......
  • In re American Milling Co., No. 4:98CV575SNL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • June 12, 2003
    ...does not occur in the absence of negligence. Lone Star Industries v. Mays Towing Co., at 1456-58 citing Stevens v. The White City, 285 U.S. 195, 52 S.Ct. 347, 76 L.Ed. 699 (1932) and Agri-Trans Corp. v. Peavey Co., 742 F.2d 1137, 1139 (8th Cir.1984); American River Transportation v. Paragon......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
237 cases
  • Howard v. Mobile & Ohio Railroad Co., No. 32092.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 12, 1934
    ...222 Mo. 488, 121 S.W. 6; New York C. Railroad Co. v. Ambrose, 280 U.S. 486, 50 Sup. Ct. 198, 74 L. Ed. 562; Stevens v. The White City, 285 U.S. 195, 52 Sup. Ct. 347, 76 L. Ed. 699; Gunning v. Cooley, 281 U.S. 90, 50 Sup. Ct. 231, 74 L. Ed. 720. (3) The verdict for $14,500 for the loss of si......
  • Bisso v. Inland Waterways Corporation, No. 50
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 16, 1955
    ...If the tug is only a contract carrier, it is not liable for injury to the tow in the absence of negligence. See Stevens v. The White City, 285 U.S. 195, 52 S.Ct. 347, 76 L.Ed. 699. But though a contract carrier, the tug may as effectively command the market and have as complete control of t......
  • Fidelity & Deposit Co. v. Grand Nat. Bank of St. Louis, No. 9775.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • February 10, 1934
    ...C. A. 8) 58 F.(2d) 616; Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Chamberlain, 288 U. S. 333, 53 S. Ct. 391, 393, 77 L. Ed. 819; Stevens v. The White City, 285 U. S. 195, 52 S. Ct. 347, 76 L. Ed. 699; Cotten v. Halverson, 201 Iowa, 636, 207 N. W. 795, 798; Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co. v. De Parcq (C. C. A.......
  • In re American Milling Co., No. 4:98CV575SNL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • June 12, 2003
    ...does not occur in the absence of negligence. Lone Star Industries v. Mays Towing Co., at 1456-58 citing Stevens v. The White City, 285 U.S. 195, 52 S.Ct. 347, 76 L.Ed. 699 (1932) and Agri-Trans Corp. v. Peavey Co., 742 F.2d 1137, 1139 (8th Cir.1984); American River Transportation v. Paragon......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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