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PROVIDENCE & N.Y. S.S. CO. V. HILL MFG. CO., 109 U. S. 578 (1883)

U.S. Supreme Court

Providence & N.Y. S.S. Co. v. Hill Mfg. Co., 109 U.S. 578 (1883)

Providence and New York Steamship

Company v. Hill Manufacturing Company

Argued April 2-3 188

Decided December 17, 1883

109 U.S. 578


1. Proceedings in the district court of the United States under the Act of 1851, 9 Stat. 635, to limit the liability of shipowners for loss or damage to goods, supersede all other actions and suits for the same loss or damage in the state or federal courts upon the matter being properly pleaded therein.

2. The effect of such proceedings in superseding other actions and suits does not depend upon the award of an injunction by the district court, but upon the object and intrinsic character of the proceedings themselves, and the express language of the act of Congress.

3. The power of Congress to pass the act of 1851 and of this Court to prescribe the rules adopted in December term, 1871, for regulating proceedings under the act reaffirmed.

4. Loss and damage by fire on board of a ship are within the relief of the 3d as well as the 1st section of the act.

5. Goods transported by steamer from Providence to New York were injured by fire on board the vessel at her dock in the latter place, and suits for damage were commenced against the owners of the steamer in New York and Boston; thereupon proceedings were instituted by such owners in the District Court of the United States for New York under the act of 1851 to limit their liability. Held that said proceedings, properly pleaded and verified, superseded the actions in other courts, and that it was error to proceed further therein.

Action in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts by the Hill Manufacturing Company, a corporation established under the laws of Maine, having a place of business in Boston, against the Providence & New York Steamship Company, a corporation established by the laws of Rhode Island and having no place of business in Massachusetts, but having a debt due it from a Massachusetts corporation which was garnisheed. The suit was brought to recover the value of cotton goods transported from Providence to New York in one of the steamship company's vessels and destroyed by fire in the vessel at the

Page 109 U. S. 579

dock in New York. The defendants denied liability. Pending proceedings, the steamship company applied to the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York for the benefits of the Limited Liability Act of 1851, 9 Stat. 635. Under that act, the district court took jurisdiction of all claims against the vessel and its owners arising out of the destruction of the property on board, and issued an order restraining their prosecution elsewhere. This order was duly served on the Hill Manufacturing Company and was pleaded and offered in evidence in this suit, but the court nevertheless proceeded to give judgment against the steamship company. The defendants brought their writ of error to reverse that judgment.

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