Sturgis v. Boyer - 65 U.S. 110 (1860)
U.S. Supreme Court
Sturgis v. Boyer, 65 U.S. 24 How. 110 110 (1860)
Sturgis v. Boyer
65 U.S. (24 How.) 110
In a collision which took place in the harbor of New York between a ship which was towed along by a steam tug to which she was lashed and a lighter loaded with flour, by which the latter vessel was capsized, the evidence shows that she was not in fault, and is entitled to damages. Neither the ship nor the tug had a proper lookout, and being propelled by steam, they could have governed their course, which the lighter could not.
Both the tug and tow were under the command of the master of the tug, who gave all the orders. None of the ship's crew was on board except the mate, who did not interfere with the management of the vessel, the persons on board being all under the command of a head stevedore. The tug must therefore be responsible for the whole loss incurred.
The vessel must be responsible because her owners appoint the officers, and the master of the tug was their agent, and not the agent of the owners of the ship, who had made a contract with him to remove the ship to her new position.
Some of the cases examined as to the distinction between principal and agent.
Cases arise when both the tow and the tug are jointly liable for the consequences of a collision, as when those in charge of the respective vessels jointly participate in their control and management, and the master or crew of both vessels are either deficient in skill, omit to take due care, or are guilty of negligence in their navigation.
Other cases may be supposed when the tow alone would be responsible, as when the tug is employed by the master or owners of the tow as the mere motive power to propel their vessels from one point to another, and both vessels are exclusively under the control, direction, and management, of the master and crew of the tow.
But whenever the tug, under the charge of her own master and crew, and in the usual and ordinary course of such an employment, undertakes to transport another vessel, which for the time being has neither her master nor crew on board, from one point to another, over waters where such accessory motive power is necessary, or usually employed, she must be held responsible for the proper navigation of both vessels.
This was a case of collision in the East River, at the southern extremity of New York, between the ship Wisconsin, propelled by the steam tug Hector, on the one hand, and the Republic on the other. The narrative of the case is given in the opinion of the Court.
The district court condemned the ship and tug both, the claimants of which appealed to the circuit court by separate appeals.
The circuit court affirmed the decree of the district court against the tug to the amount of $2,364.74, with costs, but dismissed the libel with costs as against the ship.
The claimant of the tug appealed to this Court, and the libellants appealed from the decree so far as related to the ship, which they wished to hold responsible as well as the tug. Both cases were argued together, and the opinion of the court covered both.