The Malcolm Baxter, Jr.
277 U.S. 323 (1928)

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U.S. Supreme Court

The Malcolm Baxter, Jr., 277 U.S. 323 (1928)

The Malcolm Baxter, Jr.

No. 459

Argued April 16, 1928

Decided May 21, 1928

277 U.S. 323

Syllabus

A schooner bound with cargo from New Orleans to Bordeaux developed leaks because of unseaworthiness existing when she broke ground, and was forced to take refuge in Havana for repairs. Before the repairs were completed, an embargo was put into effect by the United States. Prevented by this from continuing to Bordeaux, she proceeded to New York, and was there libeled by the cargo owners. The unseaworthiness was unknown to her owner or master when the voyage began, but could have been discovered by due diligence.

Held:

Page 277 U. S. 324

1. That recovery was rightly limited to actual damage to the cargo due to unseaworthiness and to the difference between the value of the cargo at Bordeaux had it arrived there on the contract voyage and its value on arrival had the vessel proceeded there from Havana when she was repaired and ready for sea. Pp. 277 U. S. 330, 277 U. S. 333.

2. Clauses in the bill of lading entitling the ship owner to retain the prepaid freight in case of forced interruption or abandonment of the voyage, and exempting the vessel from liability for "restraint of princes," etc., were not displaced by the departure, so that the freight and the damage due to the embargo were not recoverable by the cargo owners. P. 277 U. S. 333.

3. The rule that a voluntary deviation from the prescribed voyage displaces the contract of affreightment is not to be extended to deviation to avoid perils of the sea, even in a case where the deviation would not have been necessary if the owner had used reasonable diligence to start the voyage with a seaworthy vessel. P. 277 U. S. 332.

4. In the absence of any showing that the embargo could reasonably have been foreseen by the ship owner, or of special circumstances charging the ship owner with the knowledge or expectation that the unseaworthiness, or consequent delay, would bring the vessel within its operation, the damage resulting from it to cargo owners is not attributable to the negligence of the ship owner, but to the embargo itself. P. 277 U. S. 333.

5. The ship owner having brought itself within the exception of the bill of lading, the burden was on the cargo owners to show that the negligence was the cause of or contributed to the loss. P. 277 U. S. 334.

20 F.2d 304 affirmed.

Certiorari, 275 U.S. 517, to a decree of the circuit court of appeals, reversing a decree awarding damages in a suit begun by libel against the schooner above named. The present respondent petitioned for exoneration and limitation of liability. *

Page 277 U. S. 329

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