The Potomac
67 U.S. 581 (1862)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Potomac, 67 U.S. 2 Black 581 581 (1862)

The Potomac

67 U.S. (2 Black) 581

Syllabus

1. Case of The Steamer St. Lawrence, 1 Black 525, reaffirmed.

2. The claimant of a vessel libeled for repairs cannot be permitted in this Court to contest the amount of libellant's claim except insofar as specific objections appear by the record to have been taken to it in the court below.

3. Where a master found the amount due but stated no account, and his report was excepted to as being excessive, not sufficiently proved, erroneous under the pleadings, and founded on illegal evidence, such general objections may justly be treated as frivolous, and if overruled and the case brought here on appeal, this Court cannot say that particular charges were wrongly admitted or particular credits wrongly thrown out.

4. Where the libellant proved his demand by shop books, the circuit court might well consider the evidence in his favor stronger than the contrary opinion of experts taken ex parte after the work was done.

5. The decree of the court below is presumed to be right, and a record showing that it may possibly be erroneous or raising a doubt upon conflicting evidence is not enough to reverse it.

6. If the contract was made and the work done by the libellant, his right to recover in his own name cannot be defeated by showing that he had a partner interested in the contract.

On the 23d of November, 1855, the libel in this cause was

Page 67 U. S. 582

filed in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York by Baker, a shipwright and carpenter, in rem against the ship Potomac to recover a bill of repairs. The Potomac was a ship of more than five hundred tons, and was engaged in the general freighting business. She had just returned from a foreign voyage and was about to sail for Australia. The libel stated that the repairs were necessary and that without them she could not proceed to sea and earn freight and passage money; that they were furnished on the credit of the vessel, and master and owners (the master was an owner); that the libellant had a lien upon her for them, and that the case was within the jurisdiction of the admiralty.

The answer admitted the repairing the vessel, but not to the amount claimed, and did not deny the jurisdiction, the necessity for the repairs, or the lien.

The district court made a decree that the libellant recover the amount of his repairs, and referred it to a commissioner to ascertain the amount. The commissioner reported $3,996.18, including the interest. The claimant excepted to the report.

The court overruled the exceptions and made a final decree that the libellant recover the amount reported by the commissioner.

The claimant appealed to the circuit court from the whole of the final decree.

The libellants moved the circuit court to dismiss the appeal on the ground that it had not been perfected. The motion was denied on condition that the claimants deposit the amount of the decree in court, which was done, and by order of the court it was paid over to the libellants on their giving a bond to obey the order of court in the cause.

Much conflicting evidence was given upon the trial, the libellant proving his demand for work and materials from the books and accounts kept by his clerks in the ordinary course of business, while the claimant brought persons, said to be skilled in the business of building and repairing ships, to show that the amount expended upon the vessel, fell far short of that claimed

Page 67 U. S. 583

by the libellant. The circuit court affirmed the decree of the district court, and the claimant took this appeal.

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