The Britannia (Shiras)

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Court Documents
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

153 U.S. 130

The Britannia

In the district court of the United States for the southern district of New York, George Cleugh, of Newcastle, England, filed his libel and complaint, as owner of the steamship Beaconsfield, against the steamship Britannia, alleging that, on the 19th day of November, 1886, the Beaconsfield, while proceeding to sea, loaded with a full cargo of grain, between Governor's island and the Battery, was run into by the Britannia, bound in from sea, and so badly damaged that she sank shortly afterwards in shoal water, to which she had been towed by tug boats, and suffered damage, with loss of freight, to the amount of $48,000. The libel further alleged that the Britannia was running at too high a rate of speed for the place the vessels were in, without proper lookout or sufficient attention to her navigation, and without regard to the rules of navigation, and that the Beaconsfield was wholly without fault. An amended libel was subsequently filed, containing a more detailed statement of the position and movements of the vessels at the time of the collision.

To this original and amended libel the owners of the Britannia filed an answer traversing those allegations which attributed fault to the Britannia, alleging that the Beaconsfield had been carelessly and negligently managed in several particulars, which caused the collision, and praying that the libel be dismissed.

Subsequently, J. L. Cotton, master, and George Cleugh, owner, of the Beaconsfield, filed another and joint libel against the Britannia, to recover for loss of cargo, containing substantially the same allegations as those made in the libel previously field by Cleugh. This libel was likewise amended so as to make a more particular and detailed statement of the facts as claimed by the libelants.

To this libel an answer was duly filed by the owners of the Britannia, denying fault on her part, and alleging careless and improper management of the Beaconsfield, which was the real cause of the collision. They also gave security, and procured the discharge of their vessel. Thereafter the owners of the Britannia filed a petition against the Beaconsfield, again charging the fault of the collision upon her, alleging damages suffered by the Britannia, and praying process against the Beaconsfield, to the end that such damages might be assessed in the same suit.

This petition was met by an answer on the part of George Cleugh, the owner of the Beaconsfield, traversing the allegations of the petition.

At a subsequent term, the owners of the Britannia filed, in the same court, a libel and complaint, subsequently amended, against the Beaconsfield, containing a detailed statement of the transaction, and praying process against and condemnation of the Beaconsfield. To this libel, as amended, exceptions were filed on behalf of the owner of the Beaconsfield, on the ground of insufficiency and indefiniteness in certain particulars. Some of these exceptions were sustained, which led to a further amendment of said libel. An answer to the amended libel was then filed by the owner of the Beaconsfield.

These three cases were so proceeded in that, on the 9th day of July, 1889, final decrees were entered, adjudging that both the Britannia and the Beaconsfield were in fault, and apportioning the damages between them in such a way that there was found due from the Britannia to the Beaconsfield the sum of $14,978.90, and that there was due by the Britannia to J. L. Cotton and George Cleugh, as bailees of the cargo of wheat laden on the Beaconsfield, the sum of $25,124.63, being a moiety of the whole loss to cargo, the other moiety of said loss being adjudged against the Beaconsfield. 34 Fed. 546.

From these decrees of the district court appeals were taken by the owners of both vessels to the circuit court. That court held that the Britannia was alone in fault, and accordingly dismissed the libel of the Britannia, and awarded to Cleugh's executor for the damages to the Beaconsfield $38,808.05, with costs, and to Cotton, for damages to the cargo, $52,925.46, with costs. 42 Fed. 67.

From all three decrees the owners of the Britannia have appealed to this court.

Mr. Justice Brown and Mr. Justice Jackson dissenting as to the Beaconsfield, on the ground that she was not in fault.

R. D. Benedick, for appellants.

Geo. A. Black, for all appellees.

Sidney A. Chubb, for appellee in 341.

Mr. Justice SHIRAS, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).