The Kronprinzessin Cecilie
244 U.S. 12 (1917)

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U.S. Supreme Court

The Kronprinzessin Cecilie, 244 U.S. 12 (1917)

The Kronprinzessin Cecilie*

No. 922

Argued pril 16, 17, 1917

Decided May 7, 1917

244 U.S. 12




Upon the facts stated in the opinion, held that the master and owners of the German Steamship Kronprinzessin Cecilie were justified in apprehending that she would be seized as a prize, and her German and other passengers detained, if she completed her voyage to Plymouth and Cherbourg on the eve of the present war; that return to this country before Plymouth was reached was a reasonable and justifiable precaution, and that libelants have no cause of action for failure to deliver their shipments of gold at those ports, although, semble, the risk did not fall within the exception of "arrest and restraint of princes, rulers, or people" expressed in their bills of lading.

In an ordinary contract of carriage not made in the expectation that war may intervene before delivery, peril of belligerent capture affords an implied exception to the carrier's undertaking, the contract being silent on the subject.

The Court rejects the argument that, although a shipowner may give up the voyage to avoid capture after war is declared, he is never at liberty to anticipate war, and holds that, where war is reasonably and correctly anticipated, liability for nondelivery of freight cannot depend upon a nice calculation that delivery might have been made and capture avoided if the voyage had gone on.

238 F. 668 reversed.

Page 244 U. S. 13

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 244 U. S. 20

MR. JUSTICE Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

This writ was granted to review two decrees that reversed decrees of the district court, dismissing libels against the steamship Kronprinzessin Cecilie. 238 F. 668; 228 F. 946, 965. The libels alleged breaches of contract by the steamship in turning back from her voyage from New York and failing to transport kegs of gold to their destinations, Plymouth and Cherbourg, on the eve of the outbreak of the present war. The question is whether the turning back was justified by the facts that we shall state.

The Kronprinzessin Cecilie was a German steamship owned by the claimant, a German corporation. On July 27, 1914, she received the gold in New York for the above destinations, giving bills of lading in American form, referring to the Harter Act, and we assume, governed by our law in respect of the justification set up. Early on July 28, she sailed for Bremerhaven, Germany, via the mentioned ports, having on board 1,892 persons, of whom

Page 244 U. S. 21

667 were Germans, passengers and crew; 406, Austrians; 151, Russians; 8, Bulgars; 7, Serbs; 1, Roumanian; 14, English; 7, French; 304, Americans, and 2 or 3 from Italy, Belgium, Holland, etc. She continued on her voyage until about 11.05 P.M., Greenwich time, July 31, when she turned back; being then in 46

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