The Irrawaddy
171 U.S. 187 (1969)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Irrawaddy, 171 U.S. 187 (1898)

The Irrawaddy

No. 591

Submitted April 11, 1898

Decided May 81, 1898

171 U.S. 187

Syllabus

If a vessel, seaworthy at the beginning of the voyage, is afterwards stranded by the negligence of her master, the shipowner, who has exercised due diligence to make his vessel in all respects seaworthy, properly manned, equipped and supplied, under the provisions of § 3 of the Act of February 13, 1893, c. 105, 27 Stat. 495, has not a right to general average contribution for sacrifices made and suffered by him subsequent to the stranding in successful efforts to save vessel, freight and cargo.

The main purposes of the Act of February 13, 1893, known as the Harter Act, were to relieve the shipowner from liability for latent defects, not discoverable by the utmost care and diligence, and, in the event that he has exercised due diligence to make his vessel seaworthy, to exempt him and the ship from responsibility for damages or loss resulting from faults or errors in navigation or in the management of the vessel; but the Court cannot say that it was the intention of the act to allow the owner to share in the benefits of a general average contribution to meet losses occasioned by faults in the navigation and management of the ship.

In determining the effect of this statute in restricting the operation of general and well settled principles, the Court treats those principles as still existing, and limits the relief from their operation afforded by the statute to that called for by the language of the statute.

Page 171 U. S. 188

This case comes here on a certificate from the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The facts out of which the question arises are as follows:

On November 9, 1895, the British steamship Irrawaddy, upon a voyage from Trinidad to New York, with cargo, stranded on the coast of New Jersey through the negligent navigation of her master. Up to the time of stranding, she was properly manned, equipped, and supplied, and was seaworthy.

The vessel was relieved from the strand November 20th as the result of sacrifices by jettison of a portion of her cargo, of sacrifices and losses voluntarily made or incurred by the shipowners through the master, and through the services of salvors.

The Irrawaddy then completed her voyage and made delivery of the remainder of her cargo to the consignees in New York on their executing an average bond for the payment of losses and expenses which should appear to be due from them, provided they were stated and apportioned by the adjusters "in accordance with established usages and laws in similar cases."

An adjustment was afterwards made in New York which allowed in the general average account the compensation of the salvors, the sacrifices of cargo, and the losses and sacrifices of the shipowner.

The respondents thereupon paid $4,483.64, which was their full assessment, except the sum of $508.29, charged against them in respect of sacrifices of the shipowner, which they refused to pay.

The district court made a decree in favor of the libelants, from which decree the respondents duly appealed to this Court.

Upon these facts, the court desires instruction upon the following question of law, namely:

If a vessel, seaworthy at the beginning of the voyage, is afterwards stranded by the negligence of her master, has the shipowner, who has exercised due diligence to make his vessel in all respects seaworthy, properly manned, equipped, and supplied, under the provisions of section 3 of the Act of February 13, 1895, a right to general average contribution for

Page 171 U. S. 189

sacrifices made and suffered by him subsequent to the stranding, in successful efforts to save vessel, freight, and cargo?

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