U.S. Supreme Court
The Scotland, 105 U.S. 24 (1881)
105 U.S. 24
1. The Act of March 3, 1851, c. 43, reproduced in the Revised Statutes in secs. 4282 &c., applies to owners of foreign as well as domestic vessels, and to acts done on the high seas as well as in waters of the United States,
except when a collision occurs between two vessels of the same foreign nation, or perhaps of two foreign nations having the same maritime law.
2. The maritime law of the United States, as found in the statute, is the same as the general maritime law of Europe, and is different from that of Great Britain in this, that the former gauges the liability by the value of the ship and freight after loss or injury, and the latter by their value before the loss or injury, not exceeding Ł16 per ton.
3. The maritime law is only so far operative as law in any country as it is adopted by the laws and usages of that country. The principles laid down on this subject in Norwich Company v. Wright, 13 Wall. 104, and in The Lottawana, 21 Wall. 558, reasserted and affirmed.
4. The courts of every country will administer justice according to its laws unless a different law be shown to apply, and this rule applies to transactions taking place on the high seas. If a collision occur on the high seas between two vessels, controversies arising therefrom will be governed in the courts of this country by our laws unless the two colliding slips belong to the same foreign country, or perhaps to different countries using the same law, when they will be governed by the laws of the country to which they belong.
5. Shipowners may avail themselves of the defense of limited responsibility by answer or plea as well as by the form of proceeding prescribed by the rules of this Court, at least so far as to obtain protection against the libellants or plaintiffs in the suit. Those rules were not intended to restrict them, but to aid them in bringing into concourse those having claims against them arising from the acts of the master or crew.
6. If the owners plead the statute, a decree may be made requiring them to pay into court the limited amount for which they are liable, and distributing chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanroblesvirtualawlibrary
said amount pro rata amongst the parties claiming damages. Such a proceeding in a court of admiralty would be an "appropriate proceeding" under the statute.
7. It is not necessary that shipowners should surrender and transfer the ship in order to claim the benefit of the law. That is only one mode of relief. They may plead their immunity and, if found in or confessing fault, may abide a decree against them for the value of ship and freight as found by the proofs.
8. The rule of damages in case of goods lost or destroyed on the high seas by the fault of those in charge is the price or value of the goods at the place of shipment, with all charges of lading, insurance, and transportation, and interest at six percent per annum, but without any allowance for anticipated profits.
9. When the goods have no market value at the place of shipment, resort may be had to other means of ascertaining their actual value, such as the price which they usually bring at the port of destination, with a fair deduction for profits and charges.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.