The Favorita
85 U.S. 598 (1873)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Favorita, 85 U.S. 18 Wall. 598 598 (1873)

The Favorita

85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 598

Syllabus

1. A large ocean steamer, running at the rate of eight or ten miles an hour and close in with the Brooklyn shore on the East River and across the mouths of the ferry slips there in order to get the benefit of the eddy, condemned for a collision with a New York ferry boat coming out of her dock on the Brooklyn side and which, owing to vessels in the harbor, did not see the ocean steamer.

2. Demurrage charged also against the ocean steamer for the time that the ferry boat was repairing, though her owners, a ferry company, had a spare boat which took her place on the ferry.

Among the numerous ferries between Brooklyn and New York is that known (from the name of its New York dock) as the Catharine Street Ferry. The dock on the Brooklyn side is at Main Street, not opposite to Catharine Street but considerably to the east of it, so that all ferry boats coming out of it and on their way to the Catharine Street dock on the New York side have, after getting out of their dock, to turn considerably to the westward, and so run over to New York. To the west of Main Street, the Brooklyn shore projects somewhat and then falls off towards the south.

On the afternoon of April 14, 1865, the Manhassett, a ferry boat belonging to the Union Ferry Company, a company having several other ferries between New York and Brooklyn, was coming out of her dock at Main Street on

Page 85 U. S. 599

one of her regular trips. A good deal of shipping was lying at anchor outside and to the southwest of the dock in a way that intercepted the view westward by a boat coming out.

At the same time that the Manhassett was thus coming out of her dock, the ocean steamship Favorita was coming up the river (eastwardly or northeastwardly), and with a view of getting or keeping the eddy was running, as this Court assumed on the weight of the evidence, "close in with the Brooklyn shore and across the mouths of the ferry slips" which line it.

A statute of New York makes it obligatory on all vessels passing up or down this part of the river to keep the center and to move slowly. The Favorita was not at her full speed at all, but was still running at the rate of eight or ten miles an hour.

The pilot of the Manhassett, on account of the shipping lying adjacent to the pier and perhaps in part from the curve in the shore, was unable to see the Favorita until he had passed out of the slip. As soon as this was done and the vision to the southwest was unobstructed, he discovered the Favorita coming up the river within such close proximity to the Brooklyn side as to render the danger of collision imminent. Acting on the exigency of the moment, he rang his bell to stop, then to back, and blew two whistles, indicating to the Favorita his wish that she should sheer to the New York shore, and endeavored by a pressing signal to his engineer "to back her strong," so as to get his boat again into her slip. The Favorita, if she heard the whistles, did not respond to them, and if she changed her course at all, it was in the direction opposite to that called for by the signal. A collision ensued; the Manhassett was struck forward of her port wheelhouse and suffered material injury.

The owners of the ferry boat put another boat, which they owned, on the ferry, and sent the Manhassett for repairs. These it took ten days to make. They then libeled the Favorita for damages.

A good deal of testimony was taken, and it conflicted in

Page 85 U. S. 600

certain parts, including especially that as to whether the Manhassett had executed the proper maneuvers when she saw her peril -- that is to say, whether she ought not to have gone straight on -- and as to what the distance was as which the Favorita was running from the Brooklyn shore. The court, as already said, assumed that the Favorita was running "close to the Brooklyn shore and across the mouths of the ferry slips."

The district court decided that both boats were in fault, and apportioned the damages, while the circuit court, imputing no fault to the Manhassett, fixed the blame on the Favorita alone, and decreed accordingly, and decreed also a certain sum, based upon the evidence, for demurrage. From that decree the present appeal was taken.

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