Annotate this Case
118 U.S. 507 (1886)
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U.S. Supreme Court
The Scotland, 118 U.S. 507 (1886)
Argued March 12-13, 1885
Reargued October 20-21, 1885
Decided May 10, 1886
118 U.S. 507
The decision in the previous case of The City of Norwich repeated on the question relating to the time when the value of ship and freight is to be taken for fixing the liability of the owner and on the question of insurance.
Where a collision occurred by which the offending ship and her cargo were sunk at sea, but strippings from the ship were rescued before she went down, from which the owners afterwards realized several thousand dollars, held that in awarding damages against the owners limited to the amount of their interest in the ship, the court is not bound to allow interest on the proceeds of the wreck or strippings, but may, in its discretion, allow interest or not.
The circuit court is not bound to allow interest on costs awarded by the district court, although such costs are included in the decree of the circuit court.
The allowance of interest by way of damages in cases of collision and other cases of pure damage, as well as the allowance of costs, is in the discretion of the court.
The following is the case as stated by the Court:
This case presents nearly the same questions which have just been considered in the case of The City of Norwich. It was before this Court in October term, 1881, and was decided in March, 1882. See The Scotland, 105 U. S. 24. From the report of the case, but not from the record now before us, we learn that the ship Kate Dyer and the steamship Scotland (the latter belonging to the appellee) came into collision in December, 1866, opposite Fire Island Light, and the former immediately sank and was lost. The Scotland, being badly injured, put back for New York, but sank outside and south of Sandy Hook, only some strippings being rescued from her before she
went down. The owners of the Kate Dyer and others who had suffered loss filed libels in personam against the National Steam Navigation Company, respondent and now appellee, who filed an answer denying that the Scotland was in fault and pleading that she was sunk and destroyed, and therefore that there was no liability against the respondent. The circuit court, on appeal from the district court, found the Scotland in fault, and rendered a decree in favor of the libellants for the full amount of their damage, amounting, with interest, to upwards of $250,000, besides the costs of the libellants in the district court amounting to $2,173.10. This decree was reversed by this Court in March, 1882, so far as it condemned the respondent to pay the whole amount of damages sustained by the libellants and intervenors, and affirmed as to the residue, the Court in its opinion holding that the amount of the respondent's liability was the value of the ship's strippings which were saved from the wreck.
The case went back to the circuit court, but was not further prosecuted until June, 1883, when the libellants applied for leave to file a supplemental allegation to their libel for the purpose of showing that the respondent had received a large amount of insurance for the loss of the Scotland, which the libellants claimed should be included in the amount of the respondent's liability. The amendment was allowed without prejudice to the respondent, and with a reservation of the question as to the legality of such an amendment after the decree of this Court had been rendered and a mandate sent down. The case was then referred to ascertain the amount realized from the strippings and from the insurance of the Scotland. The finding of facts in the court below, based on the report of the commissioner, on evidence and on admissions of the parties, states that the amount realized from the strippings was $4,927.85, received on or before the 27th of July, 1868; that the freight for the voyage was $13,703.20, but no part of it was earned or received; that the passage money was $1,703.65, but was all absorbed in refunding part and employing the residue in transferring and reshipping the passengers; that the value of the Scotland before the collision was 100,000, and that
the insurance effected on her and received by the respondent was 61,647, equal to $299,807.42. As conclusions of law, the court held that the proper amount to be paid by the respondent, as depending upon the value of the articles saved, was $4,927.85, and that the insurance received by the respondent formed no part of its interest in the steamship, to be surrendered in limitation of its liability under the statute. A decree was thereupon made that the respondent pay into the registry of the court the sum of $4,927.85 as the value of the strippings and remnants of the Scotland, and the sum of $2,173.10, the costs of the libellants in the district court, and the costs in the circuit court, and that upon such payment the respondent should be discharged from all liability to the libellants and intervenors.
To the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the circuit court the libellants excepted on the following grounds, to-wit:
1. That interest should have been allowed on the sum of $4,927.85.
2. That all freight and passage money should have been added.
3. That the amount of insurance received should have been added.
4. That the libellants should have had a decree for their entire loss.
On the argument it was also claimed that interest should have been allowed on the costs of the district court ($2,173.10).