The opinion of the court was delivered by: KALODNER
The decision in this case, tried before me in Admiralty without a jury, hinges upon the answers to the following questions:
(a) Where one contracts to furnish personal services over a period of time for a money consideration, and through lack of care in the performance, the other contracting party suffers special damage; should the first contracting party be paid for the service?
(b) Under such circumstances, is the person furnishing the service liable to the other party for the special damage?
Ring, the libellant, is engaged in the business of furnishing watchmen for, inter alia, ships, wharves and docks.
The respondent steamship or her agents requested the libellant to furnish watchman in shifts over a period of time between October 8 and October 22, 1940.
When the vessel arrived at Philadelphia on October 7, 1940, she had on board a crew of 34 alien seamen. The United States immigrant inspector ordered them detained. On October 14, 1940, the detention order was amended by reducing the number to six seamen.
Under the law, the vessel, master and agents are subject to a fine of one thousand dollars for each detained seaman who escapes.
Ring furnished watchmen in the numbers and for the interval of time requested, in shifts, so that the vessel and the dock were constantly guarded. Nevertheless, two of the detained seamen escaped some time between the night of October 14 and the morning of October 15 -- apparently between 3 A.M. and 7 A.M. of October 15th; and consequently a fine of two thousand dollars was incurred by the vessel. The find has not yet been paid.
The libellant, Ring, at all times relevant to this discussion, knew that a fine of one thousand dollars would be laid against the vessel for any detained seamen who escaped.
On the night of the escape, the detained seamen were in the forecastle, egress from which was possible only by one means -- the forecastle door, which door was or should have been under the continual observation of the watchmen, as was the dock by which the vessel was moored, and the sides of the vessel (so that no one could slip down unseen by ropes or chains). Vessel and dock were both adequately lighted at the time.
The agreed price for the services of the watchmen was $1,750.10, based upon the number of watchmen and the time spent by each. There is ...