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Earle & Stoddart, Inc. v. Ellerman's Wilson Line, Ltd., 287 U.S. 420 (1932)

Earle & Stoddart, Inc. v. Ellerman's Wilson Line, Ltd.

No. 20

Argued November 19, 20, 1932

Decided December 12, 1932

287 U.S. 420


1. Rev.Stats., § 4282, exempting the vessel owner from liability to cargo for loss or damage by fire, "unless such fire is caused by the . . . neglect of such owner," means personal negligence of the owner, or, in case of a corporate owner, negligence of its managing officers or agents. P. 287 U. S. 424.

2. The fire resulted inevitably from conditions in a coal bunker, which were chargeable to the negligence of the vessel's chief engineer in storing new coal before sailing, and which rendered her unseaworthy

Page 287 U. S. 421

from the time she left port. Assuming the unseaworthiness could have been discovered by due diligence, held:

(1) The breach of the owner's implied warranty of seaworthiness did not constitute "neglect" in the sense of the fire statute. P. 287 U. S. 425.

(2) The provisions of the Harter Act, § 3, respecting seaworthiness, have to do with exemption from liabilities other than for lose by fire, and that act did not modify or repeal the fire statute. P. 287 U. S. 426.

3. Bills of lading incorporating the fire statute and containing clauses relieving the vessel owner from liability for losses due to certain cause, if the owner had "exercised due diligence to make the steamer seaworthy" held not to have added anything to the personal obligation of the vessel owner so far as loss from fire is concerned, and not to have waived the statutory immunity in that regard. P. 287 U. S. 428.

4. Rule that vessel owner's liability on personal contracts is not limited to value of his interest in vessel and freight held inapplicable where owner's claim is complete immunity from liability, and where alleged personal contracts consisted merely of bills of lading, executed by railroads and by other steamship companies. P. 287 U. S. 429.

54 F.2d 913 affirmed.

Certiorari, 286 U.S. 535, to review the affirmance of a decree dismissing a libel in admiralty. The District Court's opinion is reported, 45 F.2d 231.

Page 287 U. S. 424

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