CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.
Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question in this case arises out of a collision at sea between the Norwegian vessel Toluma and the American vessel Sucarseco. Both vessels were at fault and both were damaged. The Sucarseco proceeded on her voyage. The Toluma put into a port of refuge for necessary repairs. To permit these repairs, a part of her cargo was discharged; it was later reloaded and the Toluma completed her voyage. A general average statement was prepared which apportioned the expenses and losses, so far as they were of a general average nature, between the owner of the Toluma and the cargo owners.
Three suits were brought in admiralty and were consolidated for trial. One was a libel for damages brought by the owner of the Toluma against the Sucarseco. Another was a cross libel for damages by the owner of the Sucarseco against the Toluma. The third libel was by the owners of cargo on the Toluma against the owner of the Sucarseco to recover their damages, including the amounts which the cargo owners had paid as general average contributions.
The only question presented here is with respect to the claim of the cargo owners. Their right to recover against the Sucarseco, the non-carrying vessel, is not contested so
far as the physical damage to the cargo is concerned. The contest is with respect to the contributions of the cargo owners in general average. The Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing the District Court, allowed that recovery. 72 F.2d 690. Because of the importance of the question, which has not been decided by this Court, a writ of certiorari was granted, December 3, 1934.
There is no dispute that both vessels were seaworthy and that the collision was due to the fault in navigation of both vessels equally. No question has been raised as to the correctness of the general average adjustment. As, through the application to the instant case of the rule for the division of the entire loss equally between the vessels,*fn1 the ultimate share to be borne by the Sucarseco will not be affected by the determination of the present claim of the cargo owners, the Sucarseco is indifferent to the result and the claim is opposed by the Toluma.
The cargo was carried under a provision of the bill of lading, known as the "Jason clause," that in case "of danger, damage or disaster" resulting "from faults or errors in navigation," and if the shipowner "shall have exercised due diligence to make the vessel seaworthy and properly manned, equipped and supplied," the owners of the cargo shall contribute with the shipowner in general average "to the payment of any sacrifices, losses or expenses of a general average nature that may be incurred for the common benefit" to the same extent as if the danger, damage or disaster had not resulted from faults or errors in navigation.*fn2 The clause is substantially to the
same effect as the one sustained in the case of The Jason, 225 U.S. 32, and has received its popular designation from that decision. Petitioner contends that the liability of cargo to contribute in general average results solely from this provision in the contract of carriage; that the owners of the Sucarseco were not parties to that contract; and that the claim of the cargo owners for the refund of their general average contributions is derivative and not directly recoverable from the Sucarseco, the cargo owners being entitled only to an accounting from their carrier (the Toluma) for their ratable proportion of that carrier's recovery. Respondents insist that cargo's contributions in general average are a part of cargo's "collision damage" and are recoverable from the Sucarseco as a tortfeasor in the same manner as physical damage.
While the damages due to a collision, when both vessels are at fault, are divided as between themselves, the innocent cargo owner may recover his full damages from the non-carrying vessel. The Atlas, 93 U.S. 302, 315; The New York, 175 U.S. 187, 209, 210; Canada Malting ...