Cutler v. Rae - 48 U.S. 729 (1849)
U.S. Supreme Court
Cutler v. Rae, 48 U.S. 7 How. 729 729 (1849)
Cutler v. Rae
48 U.S. (7 How.) 729
Where a vessel was run on shore by the captain in order to save the lives of those on board and for the preservation of the cargo, by which act the vessel was totally lost but the cargo saved and delivered to the consignee, a libel in personam, filed by the owner of the vessel against the consignee of the cargo (and the result would be the same if filed against the owner of the cargo) for a contribution by way of general average, cannot be sustained in the admiralty courts of the United states.
Those courts have jurisdiction wherever the vessel or cargo is subject to an absolute lien, created by the maritime law; and will follow property subject to such a lien into the hands of assignees. The lien, in such cases, does not depend upon possession.
But in cases of general average, the lien is a qualified one, depends upon the possession of the goods, and ceases when they are delivered to the owner or consignee.
Whatever may be the liability of the owner after he has received his cargo, it is founded upon an implied promise to contribute to the reimbursement of the owner of the lost vessel, which promise is implied by the common law, and not by the maritime law.
The case is therefore beyond the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty, and the libel must be dismissed.
This was a libel filed in the district court, as a court of admiralty
and maritime jurisdiction, by Rae, the owner of a vessel called the Zamora, against Cutler in a cause of contribution or general average, civil and maritime.
The facts in the case are set forth by MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TANEY, in delivering the opinion of the Court, to which the reader is referred.
The district court decreed that Rae should recover $2,500 from Cutler, which decree was affirmed in the circuit court.