The Germanic
196 U.S. 589 (1905)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Germanic, 196 U.S. 589 (1905)

The Germanic

No. 128

Argued January 13, 16, 1905

Decided February 20, 1905

196 U.S. 589




A foreign vessel from Liverpool arrived at its destination, New York, and made fast to the wharf. Owing to unusual gales and weather, she was heavily weighted with snow and ice and made top-heavy. While the cargo was being unloaded, she suddenly rolled over and sank, damaging the cargo remaining in her, some of which had been shipped from points east of Liverpool on bills of lading to Liverpool, thence to be forwarded to New York, and containing certain exemptions of the carrier from liability. The owners and insurers of cargo libelled the vessel; it was found by the district court and the circuit court of appeals that the damage was due to negligence in unloading cargo, and ruled that the negligence fell within section one of the Harter Act, and not within section three of the same, as negligence in the navigation or management of the vessel. Held that:

This Court will not go behind the findings of the two courts as to negligence, and that the rule was correct.

When a case may fall under section one and section three of the Harter Act, the question which section is to govern must be determined by the primary nature and object of the acts which cause the loss.

Semble. The standard of conduct is external, and not merely coextensive with the judgment of the individual.

The Harter Act will be applied to foreign vessels in suits brought in the United States, and where claimants set up and rely upon the act, they must take the burden with the benefits, and cannot claim a greater limitation of liability under provisions of bills of lading.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 196 U. S. 594

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This writ of certiorari brings up the record of two cases which were tried together upon libels filed by cargo owners and underwriters to recover for water damage done to goods on board the steamship Germanic. 107 F. 294, 124 F. 1. The steamer reached her pier in New York at about noon, Saturday, February 11, 1899. She was heavily coated with ice, estimated by the courts below at not less than 213 tons, and this weight was increased by a heavy fall of snow after her arrival. She was thirty-six hours late, and, in order to sail at her regular time on the following Wednesday, began to discharge cargo from all of her five hatches at once. At the same time, she was taking in coal from coal barges on both sides, to that end being breasted off from the dock 25 or 30 feet on her port side. At about 4 p.m. on Monday, February 13, she had discharged about 1,370 out of her 1,650 tons of cargo, including all but about 155 tons in the lower hold, the other 125 tons being on the orlop and steerage decks. She then had a starboard list of about 8

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