Eastern Transportation Co. v. United States
272 U.S. 675 (1927)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Eastern Transportation Co. v. United States, 272 U.S. 675 (1927)

Eastern Transportation Company v. United States

No. 57

Argued December 7,1926

Decided January 3, 1927

272 U.S. 675

Syllabus

1. Abandonment within the thirty-day period set by the Act of March 3, 1899, will not be presumed of a wreck left in a navigable

Page 272 U. S. 676

channel, for the purpose of relieving the owner from the consequence of failure to remove or mark it as that Act requires. P. 272 U. S. 686.

2. The leaving of an unmarked wreck in a navigable channel, in a manner declared by the Act of March 3, 1899, to be unlawful, with resulting damage to another's vessel, is a maritime tort, which, when committed by the United States may be civilly remediable under the Suits in Admiralty Act, although also a crime under the Act of 1899. P. 272 U. S. 687.

3. Under the Suits in Admiralty Act, March 9, 1920, which, in lieu of earlier permission to proceed in rem against government merchant vessels and cargo, permits a libel in personam against the United States, with leave to the libelant to proceed in accordance with the principles of libels in rem whenever such a libel might have been maintained if the merchant vessel or cargo had been privately owned and possessed, and which provides also that election so to proceed "shall not preclude the libelant in any proper case from seeking relief in personam in the same suit," and that the United States shall be entitled to the benefit of all exemptions and limitations of liability accorded by law to the owners, charterers, operators, or agents of vessels, a libel in personam may be maintained against the United States to recover for the loss of a vessel and cargo resulting from the failure of the United States to remove or mark the wreck of a vessel, which, while owned and used by it as a merchant vessel, was sunk in a navigable channel. P. 272 U. S. 692.

Reversed.

Appeal from a decree of the District Court which dismissed, for lack of jurisdiction, an admiralty suit in personam brought by the appellant against the United States to recover for a ship and cargo lost by collision with the sunken and unmarked wreck of what had been a vessel owned and used by the United States solely as a merchant vessel. The Seaboard Transportation Company, originally a co-defendant, was dismissed by consent of the other parties.

Page 272 U. S. 681

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