U.S. Supreme Court
The John G. Stevens, 170 U.S. 113 (1898)
The John G. Stevens
Argued January 27, 1897
Decided April 18, 1898
170 U.S. 113
A collision between two vessels by the fault of one of them creates a maritime lien upon her for the damages to the other, which is to be preferred, in admiralty, to a lien for previous supplies.
A lien upon a tug, for damages to her tow by negligent towage bringing the tow into collision with a third vessel is to be preferred, in admiralty, to a lien for supplies previously furnished to the tug in her home port.
In a pending appeal in admiralty by Edward H. Loud and others, owners of the schooner C. R. Flint, from a decree of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of New York in favor of Frederich H. Gladwish and others, coal merchants under the name of Gladwish, Moquin & Co., the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified to this Court a question of the priority of maritime liens on the steam tug John G. Stevens, arising, as the certificate stated, upon the following facts:
"The home port of the tug was New York. Between December 7, 1885, and March 7, 1886, Gladwish, Moquin & Co. furnished coal to the tug in her home port, and filed notices of liens therefore under the Laws of the New York of 1862, c. 482, thereby creating statutory liens on her. On March 8, 1886, the tug John G. Stevens was employed in the port of New York to tow the schooner C. R.
Flint through the waters of said port, and, while towing, negligently allowed the C. R. Flint to collide with the bark Doris Eckhoff in tow of the tug R. S. Carter."
"On March 16, 1886, Loud and others, owners of the C. R. Flint, libeled the John G. Stevens and the R. S. Carter in admiralty in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of New York for the collision damage. On March 16, 1886, Gladwish and others libeled the John G. Stevens in the same court to enforce their supply lien under the state law. The Loud libel resulted in a decree condemning both tugs for damages exceeding $15,000. The Gladwish libel resulted in a decree condemning the John G. Stevens for the coal supplied, and costs -- in all, $218.07."
"The district court awarded priority to the supply lien, which exhausts the fund resulting from the sale of the John G. Stevens, leaving the Loud decree unsatisfied."
Upon these facts, the circuit court of appeals desired the instruction of this Court upon this question of law:
"Is the lien for the damages occasioned by negligent towage, which arose on March 8, 1886, to be preferred to the previous state lien for supplies, the libel for supplies being filed last?"