APPEALS from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York. Hudson S. Rideout and others, owners of the schooner 'Abbie S. Oakes,' and Charles Robinson, owner of her cargo, filed their separate libels in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, against the steamboat 'City of Hartford' and the steam-tug 'Unit,' to recover, the first $8,000, and the second $4,500, damages, occasioned by the sinking of the schooner in East River, New York, which was caused by a collision between the 'City of Hartford' and her while she was in tow by the 'Unit.' In each of the cases the steamer and tug were claimed by their respective owners. In the first case, the claimant entered into a bond in the sum of $16,000, and a stipulation for costs for $250. In the second case, the bond was for $9,000, and the stipulation for costs for $250. The 'Unit' having been appraised at $3,000, her owners entered into a stipulation for value in that sum and for $250 costs. The court, on final hearing, entered a decree in the first case that the libellants recover from the 'City of Hartford' the sum of $4,119.04 damages, with $56.29 interest and $234.19 costs; and dismissed the libel as to the 'Unit,' with costs against the libellants. In the second case, the court dismissed the libel as to the 'Unit,' and decreed that Robinson recover from the 'City of Hartford' $3,407.79 damages, with $8.52 interest and $142.64 costs. The owners of the schooner thereupon appealed to the Circuit Court from so much of the decree as dismissed their libel against the 'Unit,' and awarded costs against them. The company appealed from the entire decree in each case. Robinson did not appeal. The Circuit Court, upon hearing, entered in the first case a final decree, reversing that of the District Court, which dismissed the libel as to the 'Unit' and awarded costs to the claimants, and ordering and adjudging that the libellants recover of the 'City of Hartford' the sum of $2,087.67, being one-half of the damages sustained by the collision, together with interest thereon and the costs of seizure, and one-half of the general costs, making in all $2,674.54; that they recover of the 'Unit' $2,087.67, 'being the other one-half of the damages,' with interest, and the costs specially incurred by the proceedings against her, and one-half of the general costs, amounting in all to $2,787.54. In the second case, the decree of the District Court was modified, and it was ordered and adjudged that Robinson recover against the 'City of Hartford' the sum of $1,856.66, being one half-part of the damages sustained by him by reason of the collision, including interest thereon to the date of the decree of the District Court, and the sum of $337.14 interest on said half-part to the date of the decree of the Circuit Court, and so much of his costs against said steamboat in the District Court as were incurred in the seizure, amounting to $102.90, with $18.60 interest thereon, together with one-half of the general costs of the Circuit Court, taxed at $14.35, amounting in all to $2,329.65. From these decrees the Hartford and New York Steamboat Company, claimants of the steamboat, and Robinson, severally appealed to this court.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Clifford delivered the opinion of the court.
Mr. R. H. Huntley for the steamboat company.
Mr. Joseph H. Choate for the owners of the schooner, and Mr. Henry J. Scudder for Robinson.
Freedom from fault is a good defence in a cause of collision, even when the suit is promoted to recover compensation for injuries received by an unoffending party; but the innocent party, if the collision was occasioned by the fault of the other vessel or vessels, is always entitled to full compensation for the injuries received, unless the loss exceeds the amount of the interest which the owners have in the offending ship or ships and the freight pending at the time of the collision. 9 Stat. 635; The Atlas, 93 U. S. 302.
Sufficient appears to show that the schooner was on a voyage from Baltimore to Portsmouth, N. H., laden with a cargo of corn, and that she put into the port of New York, by reason of stress of weather; that while there those in charge of her navigation employed the steam-tug to tow her from her anchorage through the pass called Hell Gate, and that the steam-tug undertook to perform that service for a reasonable compensation; that the steam-tug accordingly took the schooner in two and proceeded on the route; that while so proceeding, and when in East River, the two vessels came in sight of the steamer 'City of Hartford,' then coming down the river; and the charge of the libel is that the steamer and steam-tug were so negligently, carelessly, and unskilfully manoeuvred and navigated that the steamer collided with the schooner, and caused her to sink, and that she, with her cargo and property on board, became a total loss.
Bad seamanship and unskilful navigation are imputed both to the steamer and the steam-tug, and the claim is that they are both bound to make good the damage sustained by the libellants.
Process was issued, and both the steamer and the steam-tug were attached by the marshal. Interlocutory proceedings will be omitted, as they are not material to the questions involved in the assignment of errors, except to say that the respective claimants of the respondent steamers appeared and filed answers to the libel. Testimony was taken on both sides; and after hearing, the District Court ordered a decretal order against the steamer, in favor of the libellants, and dismissed the libel as to the steam-tug, holding that the steamer was wholly in fault.
Owners of the cargo in such a case may, if they see fit, join with the owners of the vessel in promoting the cause of collision, or they may sue separately, at their election. In this case they filed a separate libel, in which they charged that the collision was occasioned both by the steamer and the steam-tug, and that both were bound to make good their loss. Service was made, and the claimants of both respondent vessels appeared and filed answers. Proofs being taken, they went to hearing; and the District Court entered a decree as in the preceding libel, holding that the steamer was wholly in fault, and dismissed the libel as to the steam-tug. Separate references were made to the master, whose respective reports were subsequently confirmed by the court.
By the final decree, the libellants in the first case recovered $4,119.04, with taxed costs, and the libellant in the second case recovered $3,704.79, with interest and taxed costs; and all parties except the libellant in the second case appealed to the Circuit Court.
Hearing was again had; and the Circuit Court reversed the decree of the District Court in the first case, dismissing the libel as to the steam-tug, and adjudged and decreed that both the steamer and the steam-tug were in fault, and that the damages and costs should be equally apportioned between the offending vessels.
Pursuant to that order, the decree against the steamer was for the sum of $2,080.67, for half the damages sustained by the libellants, including interest, with costs as therein taxed; and the charge against the steam-tug was for the same sum, with interest and costs, as in the case of the steamer. In the second case, also, the decree was in favor of the libellants, upon the ground that both the steamer and the steam-tug were in fault, as in the other case, where the libel was promoted by the owners of the schooner.
Due computation of the loss sustained by the owner of the cargo, who was the libellant in the second case, was made in the District Court, and the Circuit Court adopted that computation as correct. As there made, it amounted, with interest, to the sum of $3,713.13, besides costs as taxed; but the Circuit Court adjudged and decreed that the libellant recover of the steamer the sum of $1,856, being one-half of the damages sustained by the libellant, including interest to date of the decree in the District Court, and the sum of $337.14, 'for interest on half-part' to the date of the decree, with costs and interest thereon, as more fully set forth in the decree.
Evidence of a decisive character appears in the record to show that the circuit judge concurred with the District Court that the steamer was in fault, and that her fault contributed to the collision which caused the loss sustained by the respective libellants, but that he was unable to concur that the steam-tug was without fault. Instead of that, he was of the opinion that those in charge of the navigation of the steam-tug saw the steamer as she was coming down the river, at such a distance as would have enabled the steam-tug to have made any necessary manoeuvre to avoid the collision.
Beyond all question, he was of the opinion that both the respondent vessels were in fault, which, by all the authorities, presents a case where each should be adjudged liable for a moiety of the damages. By the decree the steamer is adjudged liable for half the damages; but the libellant, though admitted to be without fault, ...