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United States v. Carroll Towing Co

Law Dictionary

Law Dictionary

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Torts Keyed to Dobbs

Citation. United States v. Carroll Towing Co., 160 F.2d 482 (2d Cir. N.Y. Mar. 17, 1947)

Brief Fact Summary. A district court held Appellant (Conners Co.) partly liable for damage to a barge and for lost cargo by not having an attendant aboard the barge when it broke free from a pier. Appellant sought review.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. There is no general rule to determine when the absence of an attendant will make the owner of the barge liable for injuries to other vessels if she breaks away from her moorings. If he is found to be liable for injuries to others, then he must reduce his damages proportionately, if the injury is to his own barge. Vessels invariably suffer accidents. The owner’s duty, as in other similar situations, to prevent against resulting injuries is a function of three variables: (1) The probability of the kind of incident in question; (2) the gravity of the resulting injury; and (3) the burden of adequate precautions.

Facts. Appellant owned a barge, which was chartered by a railroad company. The barge, with a cargo of flour owned by the United States, was moored to the end of the pier. Appellant chartered a tug company, Carroll Towing Co. (Appellee) to drill out one of the barges. Appellee went aboard the barge and readjusted its mooring lines. The barge broke free of the mooring lines due to this readjustment. The Barge hit a tanker, and the tanker’s propeller broke a hole in the barge. The barge careened, dumped her cargo, and sank. No one was aboard at the time. Appellee argued that is someone was aboard the barge to observe it leaking after it broke free, the cargo and the barge could have been saved.

Issue. At issue is whether the Appellants should be held partly liable for damage to the barge and for the lost cargo by not having an attendant aboard the barge when it broke free from the pier.
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