THE IROQUOIS, 194 U. S. 240 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

The Iroquois, 194 U.S. 240 (1904)

The Iroquois

No. 200

Submitted March 18, 1904

Decided May 2, 1904

194 U.S. 240


While a master is not bound in every instance where a seaman is seriously injured to disregard every other consideration, and put into the nearest port where medical assistance can be obtained, his duty to do so is manifest, if the accident happens within a reasonable distance of such a port.

The duty of the master in each case depends upon its own circumstances, and although the case may not be free from doubt, this Court will apply its general rule both in equity and admiralty cases, not to reverse the concurring decisions of two subordinate courts upon questions of fact unless there be a clear preponderance of evidence against their conclusion.

This was a libel filed in the District Court for the Northern District of California by Matthew Bridges against the ship Iroquois, to recover damages for a failure of the master to provide suitable surgical treatment and care for the libellant, who had suffered injury by a fall from the main yard to the deck of the vessel.

The facts of the case were substantially as follows: the Iroquois left New York on December 27, 1899, bound for the port of San Francisco, with a full cargo of general merchandise. On February 23, 1900, while the vessel was rounding Cape Horn during heavy weather, and while libellant was aloft in the performance of his duty, he accidentally fell from the main yard to the deck of the vessel, thereby fracturing two ribs and his right leg in two places. The master, with the aid of the carpenter, set the leg in splints, kept the libellant in his berth, gave him such food and delicacies as the supplies of the ship permitted, and on March 30, after five weeks, removed the splints, and found the leg apparently in good condition. Before arriving at San Francisco, and early in April, he was able to leave his berth, go upon deck and walk about with the aid of

Page 194 U. S. 241

a crutch. But, after arriving at that port on May 7, 1900, he was sent to the hospital, where it was found that, while his ribs had healed perfectly, the bones of his leg had not united, and he was subsequently, and in October, compelled to suffer amputation, and, of course, became a cripple for the remainder of his life. The master was charged with a breach of duty in failing to put into an intermediate port and procure the proper surgical attendance.

Upon this state of facts, the district court entered a decree in favor of the libellant for $3,000, 113 F.9d 4, which was subsequently affirmed by the court of appeals, 118 F.1d 03.

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