Chamberlain v. Ward - 62 U.S. 548 (1858)
U.S. Supreme Court
Chamberlain v. Ward, 62 U.S. 21 How. 548 548 (1858)
Chamberlain v. Ward
62 U.S. (21 How.) 548
In a collision which took place upon Lake Erie between the propeller Ogdensburgh and the steamer Atlantic, the propeller was in fault --
1. Because she did not have a competent and skillful officer in charge of her deck, and his want of qualifications and skillfulness contributed to the collision. Owners of steamships must employ skillful and competent officers, and the remark is just as applicable to the under officers, whether the mate or second mate, as to the master, during all the time they have charge of the deck.
2. Because she did not have signal lights properly displayed, as required by law. But the failure to show the lights, which are directed by the act of Congress, does not of itself throw the entire responsibility upon the offending party where the other vessel also is in fault.
3. Because the officer in charge of her deck neglected to seasonably change her helm and persistently kept her on her course after he discovered the signal lights of the steamer.
The Atlantic was in fault --
1. Because the officer in charge of her deck did not exercise proper vigilance to ascertain the character of the approaching vessel after he discovered the white lights, which subsequently proved to be the white lights of the propeller.
2. She was also in fault because the officer of her deck did not seasonably and effectually change the course of the vessel or slow or stop her engines after he discovered those lights so as to prevent collision.
3. Because she did not have a vigilant and sufficient lookout. Ocean steamers usually have two lookouts in addition to the officer of the deck, and in general they are stationed, one on the larboard and the other on the starboard side of the vessel as far forward as possible, and during the time they are so engaged they have no other duties to perform, and no reason is perceived why any less precaution should be taken by first-class steamers on the lakes.
Being a case of mutual fault, the decree of the circuit court apportioning the damages is affirmed.
It was a case of collision between the propeller Ogdensburgh and the steamer Atlantic, under the circumstances which are particularly set forth in the opinion of the Court.
The reader will bear in mind the difference between the white lights, which are carried by all vessels, and the signal lights required by the act of Congress of 1849 to be carried by steamboats and propellers navigating the lakes. These are directed to be a triangular light, shaded green on the starboard side and red on the larboard side, with reflectors, and to be of a size to insure a good and sufficient light.