Annotate this Case
76 U.S. 665 (1869)
U.S. Supreme Court
The Quickstep, 76 U.S. 9 Wall. 665 665 (1869)
76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 665
1. Where the district and the circuit court concur in their view of facts in a collision case in admiralty, the case will come before this Court with every presumption in favor of the correctness of the decision appealed from.
2. The fact that in a libel for collision a contract of towage is recited in the libel does not necessarily convert the libel into a proceeding on the contract. Where the real grievance alleged is a wrong suffered by the libellant in the destruction of his boat by the carelessness and mismanagement of the boat libeled, the reference to the contract is to be regarded as made by way of inducement to the real grievance.
3. An objection of a too general allegation of injury should be made in the court below. It cannot be made here for the first time and after the case has been heard below.
4. In admiralty, an omission to state some facts which prove to be material but which cannot have occasioned any surprise to the opposite party will not be allowed to work injury to the libellant on appeal if the court can see that there was no design on his part in omitting to state them.
5. It is the duty of a vessel which undertakes to tow other boats to see that the tow is properly made up and that the lines are strong and securely fastened.
6. A party who does not appeal can be heard only in support of the decree.
One Byrne, the captain and owner on the canal boat Citizen, laden with wheat, contracted with the captain of the
tug Quickstep to tow the canal boat from New York to New Brunswick. Byrne did not know how many boats the captain
of the tug would take. The tow, however, when completed, consisted of six boats -- two abreast, on each side of the tug and one directly in the rear of each of the two boats, as shown in the upper part of the drawing. The Citizen was on the port side and nearest the tug, and the Wide World was in the same position on the starboard side. The stern of the boats, abreast of the tug, were about even with the stern of the tug, but their bows extended further than the bow of the tug, and the bows of the Citizen and Wide World were coupled by what is called a "bridle line," the line having been furnished by the towing tug.
This fleet proceeded on their voyage with safety until they approached a point in the harbor of New York known as Robbins; Reef lighthouse, when the boat in the rear of the boats on the port
side of the tug became detached. The weather, which was fair when the boat set off from New York, was now somewhat rough, with a certain amount of wind. The tug stopped as soon as the boat broke loose, and then proceeded to back. In backing, the bridle line parted and the tug got into the trough of the sea and collided with the Citizen, knocking two holes in her starboard side near the stern and producing so considerable an injury that she ultimately sank, her crew, however, not perhaps having exerted themselves as perseveringly as they might have done to save her. The matter is exhibited in the lower part of the diagram.
In the course of the difficulty, two other of the boats got loose. One of them cast anchor and was saved at the spot. The other, loaded with iron, drifted about all night and was picked up uninjured on the next morning.
The owner of the Citizen libeled the Quickstep in the District Court of New York.
The libel alleged "a contract" with the steam tug to tow the canal boat to New Brunswick for a stipulated price, deviation to another dock before setting off, unreasonable delay in the performance of the contract. It alleged further that the canal boat was staunch &c., and under the complete control of the steam tug; that when near the lighthouse on Robbins' Reef, the boat which had been hitched to
"the boat of the libellant by some means became detached, that thereupon the steam tug attempted to pick her up, and to that end commenced to back in so negligent and careless a manner as to endanger the safety of the boat of your libellant; that the libellant protested and warned the master or those in charge of said steam tug that by so doing they would sink his boat, but the said parties paid no heed to his protest or warning, but continued to back said steam tug, and handled and managed the same in such a careless and unseamanlike manner that the same said steam tug struck against the canal boat with great force and violence, breaking in her starboard side and causing her to fill with water and sink; that the libellant did all in his power to prevent the said loss; that the same was without fault on his part, and occurred entirely
through the carelessness and mismanagement of the master and mariners on board of the steam tug."
In conclusion, the libel prayed damages.
The answer substantially denied these allegations and set up the plea of inevitable accident. The evidence upon the trial was quite conflicting, but the case, as above given, was the case which this Court considered as established by it.
The district court, giving no opinion and finding no facts whatever, held that the libellant and claimant were both in fault, and divided the damages. On appeal, the circuit court gave an opinion of a few words, in which, however, no facts were found -- and affirmed the decree. The owners of the steam tug appealed.