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THE CARIB PRINCE, 170 U. S. 655 (1898)

U.S. Supreme Court

The Carib Prince, 170 U.S. 655 (1898)

The Carib Prince

No. 45

Argued March 7-8, 1898

Decided May 28, 1898

170 U.S. 655


Under the settled doctrine of this Court that the concurrent decisions of two courts upon a question of fact will be followed unless shown to be clearly erroneous, this Court accepts as indisputable the finding that the Carib Prince was unseaworthy at the time of the commencement of the voyage in question in this case by reason of the defect in the tank referred to in its opinion.

The condition of unseaworthiness so found to exist was not within the exceptions contained in the bill of lading, and, under the other facts disclosed by the record, the shipowner was liable for the damages caused by the unseaworthy condition of his ship, and there is nothing in the Act of February 19, 1893, c. 105, 27 Stat. 445, commonly known as the Harter Act, which relieved him from that liability.

The provision in that act exempting owners or charterers from loss resulting from "faults or errors in navigation or in the management of the vessel," and from certain other designated causes, in no way implies that because the owner is thus exempted when he has been duly diligent, the law has thereby also relieved him from the duty of furnishing a seaworthy vessel.

The Carib Prince, an iron and steel steamer, was built in England in the spring of 1893 for the carriage of passengers

Page 170 U. S. 656

and freight. She was fitted with a peak tank, triangular in shape, extending from the bottom of the ship to the between deck, the tank being intended to hold water to be used as ballast in trimming the ship. The sides of the tank were the sides of the ship. The after end of it was the collision bulkheads. It was twenty-four feet deep, and had a capacity of eighty-three tons of water. The angle irons, beams, strengthening bars, etc., which enabled the collision bulkheads to sustain the strain of the water against it were on the inside of the tank, the face of the bulkhead showing in the No. 1 hold being smooth, except that the plates were lap-jointed. The strengthening bars were fastened to the bulkhead by a series of horizontal rivets, the heads of the rivets, inside No. 1 hold, being situated three or more feet above the floor of the hold.

On September 14, 1892, the Carib Prince was chartered to the Trinidad Direct Line Steamship Company for the period of four years. On August 31, 1893, while the vessel was in the possession of the charterers and lying in the port of Trinidad, loading for a voyage to New York, a number of cases of bitters were delivered on board consigned to J. W. Wuppermann. They were placed in the No. 1 hold. The bill of lading delivered to the consignor contained the following exceptions:

"The act of God, the Queen's enemies, pirates, robbers, restraints of princes, rulers, and people, loss or damage from heat or fire on board, in hulk or craft or on shore, explosion, steam, accidents to or latent defects in hull, tackle, boilers, and machinery, or their appurtenances, jettison, barratry, any act, neglect, or default whatsoever of pilots, masters, or crew in the management or navigation of the ship, quarantine, collision, stranding, and all and every other dangers and accidents of the seas, rivers, or steam navigation, of whatever nature or kind, always excepted."

The ship left Trinidad on August 31, 1893, stopped for a short time at Grenada, just north of the Island of Trinidad, and from the latter port proceeded direct to New York. After leaving Grenada, and on the night of the 3d of September, by direction of the captain, the peak ballast tank referred to, and which adjoined the compartment in which the cases of bitters

Page 170 U. S. 657

were stored, was filled with sea water. This was done for the purpose of trimming the ship, which was several feet lower at the stern than she was forward. The next morning, or the second morning after, it was discovered that the water from the peak tank was escaping through a rivet hole into the No. 1 hold, the head of one of the rivets having been forced off. To recover the damage occasioned to the goods in question by the water which had thus gotten into the No. 1 hold, Mrs. Wuppermann filed her libel in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Ernest Legge, master on behalf of the owner, appeared and filed an answer, in which, after denying the material allegations of the complaint, the exceptions contained in the bill of lading were pleaded as a defense, and it was averred that said exceptions were valid in the port where the bills of lading were issued. It was also averred

"that the owner and charterer used all due diligence to have her (the vessel) properly equipped, manned, provisioned, and outfitted, and in every way seaworthy and capable of performing her intended voyage, and used all due diligence in and about the transportation of the merchandise in question, and alleged that, if the cargo mentioned in the libel was damaged as alleged, the damage was due to latent defects in certain rivets, angle irons, braces, and straps in the bulkhead between the No. 1 hold and the peak tank just forward of it, or to some error or fault in the management or navigation of the vessel in filling the said peak tank on the voyage, as will more fully appear on the trial of this cause."

The case was tried in June, 1894, and a final decree was entered in October following, dismissing the libel. 53 F. 266. From that decree an appeal was taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which affirmed the decree of the district court. 68 F. 254. A writ of certiorari being allowed, the cause has been brought into this Court for review.

Page 170 U. S. 658

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