U.S. v. Carroll Towing Co., U.S. Cir. Ct. Of App.,

159 F.2d 169 (2nd Cir. 1947)


Conners Marine Co., Inc., was the owner of a barge, which the Pennsylvania Railroad Company had chartered. Grace Line, Inc., was the charterer of the tug, 'Carroll,' of which D was the owner. The barge was made fast off Pier 52. Five other barges were moored outside her, extending into the river; her lines to the pier were not then strengthened. The Grace Line, which had chartered the tug, 'Carroll,' sent her down to the locus in quo to 'drill' out a barge which lay at the end of the Public Pier; and in order to do so, it was necessary to throw off the line between the two tiers. The 'Carroll' nosed up against the outer barge of the tier lying off Pier 52, ran a line from her own stem to the middle bit of that barge, and kept working her engines 'slow ahead' against the ebb tide which was making at that time. To make sure that the tier on Pier 52 was safely moored the 'harbormaster' and the deckhand of the Carroll went aboard the barges and readjusted all the fasts to their satisfaction, including those from the Conners' barge to the pier. After the drilling out was commenced again, the fasts from the barge either rendered or carried away. All six barges went with the current. Eventually, the barge careened dumped her cargo of flour and sank. D could have kept the barge afloat, had they learned of her condition; but the bargee had left her on the evening before, and nobody was on board to observe that she was leaking. The attendant employee of a barge left the vessel on the afternoon of January 3rd at five o'clock. The barge broke away at about two o'clock the following afternoon of the following day 21 hours after the employee left. The employee had been away the entire time with no excuse as was deduced from his fabricated story. P sued D claiming that D’s negligence with the mooring lines caused the barge to sink. D claimed that P was contributorily negligent because its employee was not present to prevent the accident. At trial, the trial court divided the damages according to the admiralty rule because it found contributory negligence because P's employee was not on the barge at that time.