The Maggie J. Smith - 123 U.S. 349 (1887)


U.S. Supreme Court

The Maggie J. Smith, 123 U.S. 349 (1887)

The Maggie J. Smith

Argued November 10, 11, 1887

Decided November 21, 1887

123 U.S. 349

Syllabus

The findings of fact in a cause in admiralty under the act of February 16, 1875, 18 Stat. 315, have the same effect as a special verdict in an action at law.

Rule 24 in § 4233 Rev.Stat. applies only when there is some special cause rendering a departure necessary to avoid immediate danger, such as the nearness of shallow water, or a concealed rock, the approach of a third vessel, or something of that kind. [See p. 123 U. S. 353 for this rule.]

Where one ship has, by wrong manoeuvres, placed another ship in a position of extreme danger, that other ship will not be held to blame if she has done something wrong and has not been manoeuvred with perfect skill and presence of mind.

Page 123 U. S. 350

The allowance of interest and costs in a cause in admiralty rests in the discretion of the court below, and its action will not be disturbed on appeal.

The following is the case as stated by the Court.

This case comes before us from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Maryland. It is a libel against the vessel Maggie J. Smith for damages caused by her collision with the schooner Enoch Robinson, which resulted in sinking the latter and in the entire loss of both vessel and cargo. The libellants are the owners of the Enoch Robinson. The petitioners are the owners of the property on board, who have intervened for their interest. The claims of libellants and petitioners exceeded the value of the Maggie J. Smith and her freight, and thereupon the owners of that vessel instituted proceedings for the benefit of the limited liability provisions of Rev.Stat. §§ 4283-4289, under which the value of the vessel was appraised at $32,000, to which amount their liability was accordingly limited. A stipulation for that amount was thereupon given by sufficient sureties, with the condition that the claimants would perform the final order and decree in the case, or that execution might issue against the goods, lands, and tenements of the stipulators wherever found.

On the trial before the district court, a decree was entered for the claimants, and the libel dismissed. On appeal, the circuit court reversed the decree and adjudged that the libellants and petitioners were entitled to recover certain specified sums which, in the aggregate, exceeded the $32,000; that the stipulators should pay that amount into the registry of the court, and that the clerk, after deducting the costs of the circuit and district courts, should pay the balance to the libellants and petitioners pro rata -- that is, in proportion to their respective claims as allowed. From this decree the claimants have appealed to this Court. Subsequently the libellants and petitioners applied to the circuit court for a further decree, directing the claimants to pay interest on the amount of the stipulation from its date, and the costs of the

Page 123 U. S. 351

district and circuit courts, but the application was refused. From this refusal they have appealed to this Court.

Page 123 U. S. 352



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