United States Supreme Court
Argued: December 2, 1902. --- Decided: March 2, 1903
This was a libel in rem filed in the district court for the eastern district of Wisconsin, in admiralty, against the propeller Osceola, to recover damages for a personal injury sustained by one Patrick Shea, a seaman on board the vessel, through the negligence of the master.
The case resulted in a decree for the libellant, from which an appeal was taken by the owners to the circuit court of appeals, which certified to this court certain questions arising upon the following statement of facts:
'The owners had supplied the vessel with a movable derrick for the purpose of raising the gangways of the vessel when in port, in order to discharge cargo. The appliance was in every respect fit and suitable for the purpose for which it was intended and furnished to be used, and at the time of the injury was in good repair and condition. The gangways which were to be raised by the derrick were each about 10 feet long lengthwise of the ship, about 7 feet high, and weighed about 1,050 pounds. In the month of December, 1896, the vessel was on a voyage bound for the port of Milwaukee, and when within 3 miles of that port, and while in the open lake, the master of the vessel ordered the forward port gangway to be hoisted by means of the derrick, in order that the vessel might be ready to discharge cargo immediately upon arrival at her dock. At this time the vessel was proceeding at the rate of 11 miles an hour against a head wind of 8 miles an hour. Under the supervision of the mate, the crew, including the appellee, Patrick Shea, who was one of the crew, proceeded to execute the order of the master. The derrick was set in place to raise the gangway. As soon as the gangway was swung clear of the vessel, the front end was caught by the wind and turned outward broadside to the wind, and by the force of the wind was pushed aft and pulled the derrick over, which in falling struck and injured the libellant. The negligence, if any there was, consisted solely in the order of the master that the derrick should be used and that the gangway should be hoisted while the vessel was yet in the open sea, when the operation might be impeded and interfered with by the wind. The mate and the crew in executing the orders of the master of the vessel acted in all respects properly, and were guilty of no negligence in the performance of the work. The libel charged negligence upon the owners of the vessel in 'requiring and permitting the work of unshipping said gangway to be done while the said vessel was at sea and running against the wind.' The owners were not present upon the vessel, nor was the master a part owner of the vessel. It is contended that the vessel and its owners are liable for every improvident or negligent order of the captain in the course of the navigation or management of the vessel.'
The questions of law upon which that court desired the advice and instruction of the Supreme Court are—
'First. Whether the vessel is responsible for injuries happening to one of the erew by reason of an improvident and negligent order of the master in respect of the navigation and management of the vessel.
'Second. Whether in the navigation and management of a vessel the master of the vessel and the crew are fellow servants.
'Third. Whether, as a matter of law, the vessel or its owners are liable to the appellee, Patrick Shea, who was one of the crew of the vessel, for the injury sustained by him by reason of the improvident and negligent order of the master of the vessel in ordering and directing the hoisting of the gangway at the time and under the circumstances declared; that is to say, on the assumption that the order so made was improvident and negligent.'
Mr. Charles H. Van Alstine for appellants.
[Argument of counsel from pages 160-163 intentionally omitted]
Mr. John H. Roemer for appellee.
[Argument of counsel from pages 164-168 intentionally omitted]
Mr. Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the court:
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