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U.S. Supreme Court

The Washington and The Gregory, 76 U.S. 9 Wall. 513 513 (1876)

The Washington and The Gregory

76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 513


1. Where a collision between two vessels results from the fault of both of them, a party sustaining injuries from the collision may recover damages against both vessels, and they may be proceeded against in the same libel.

2. The damages recovered in such case may be apportioned by the decree equally between the two vessels, and at the same time the right be reserved to the libellant to collect the entire amount of either of them in case of the inability of the other to respond for her portion.

This was a libel in admiralty by Ann Cavan to recover damages for injuries sustained by her whilst a passenger on board the ferry boat D. S. Gregory, crossing the Hudson River, from a collision, which occurred September 16th, 1866, between that boat and the steamboat George Washington. The ferry boat was at the time making one of her regular trips from her slip at the foot of Montgomery Street in Jersey City to her slip at the foot of Desbrosses Street, in the City of New York. The Washington was an excursion boat, and was bound from the pier at the foot of Christopher Street to Barclay Street in New York, intending to proceed thence down the bay. The ferry boat was crossing the river diagonally and moving at the rate of between nine and ten miles an hour. The steamboat was going down the river at the rate of twelve miles an hour, distant about two hundred yards from the piers in New York. The collision took place in the morning, between the hours of ten and eleven. The weather was clear at the time, and the river in the vicinity of the collision quite free of boats of all kinds. In the courts below and in this Court, each vessel endeavored to throw the blame of the collision upon the other. The district court and the circuit court held that the collision was caused by the fault of both vessels; that each was endeavoring to cross the bows of the other and to force the other to pass under her stern. The libellant was at the time on her way to New York to attend church, the day being Sunday.

Page 76 U. S. 514

The injuries she received from the collision were of the most serious character, resulting in permanent disability. The district court awarded her ten thousand dollars damages, to be recovered against both vessels. The circuit court affirmed the decree, but added to it that the damages should be equally apportioned between the two vessels; that upon the payment by the claimants of one vessel of one-half of the damages and costs, with interest and charges, proceedings against her for the collection of the residue should be stayed until execution for such residue against the claimants of the other vessel was returned unsatisfied or until it otherwise appeared that the libellant was unable to collect the residue of them by process from the court. The decree also gave the parties liberty to apply to the court, if occasion should require, touching the enforcement of the decree.

The claimants of both vessels appealed to this Court.

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