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U.S. Supreme Court

Cleveland Terminal R. Co. v. Cleveland Steamship Co., 208 U.S. 316 (1908)

Cleveland Terminal and Valley Railroad

Company v. Cleveland Steamship Company

No. 84

Argued December 17, 18, 1907

Decided February 24, 1908

208 U.S. 316


The admiralty does not have jurisdiction of a claim for damages caused by a vessel to a bridge or dock which, although in navigable waters, is so connected with the shore that it immediately concerns commerce upon land. The Plymouth, 3 Wall. 20, followed, and The Blackheath, 195 U. S. 361, distinguished.

This is an appeal from a final decree of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, in admiralty, dismissing appellants' libel on the appellee's exception thereto on the ground that the court had not jurisdiction of the subject matter. It comes here directly, on a certificate as to the jurisdiction, under § 5 of the act of 1891.

The libel was in rem against the steam propeller William E. Reis, owned by appellee, and was based on injuries inflicted to the center pier of the swinging or drawbridge spanning the Cuyahoga River, a navigable stream at Cleveland, Ohio, to the protecting piling work surrounding such center pier and one of the shore abutments of such bridge, and to a dock or wharf next below such bridge, all caused as described in the libel in substance as follows:

The steamer Reis, during a heavy flood, broke from her chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 208 U. S. 317

winter moorings and, drifting down the river, struck the merchant propeller Moore at her moorings, forcing her against the steamer Eads, putting her adrift, the three being carried down with the current. The Cleveland Terminal & Valley Railroad Company owned and operated a bridge across the Cuyahoga River below the mooring point of the above-named vessels, the bridge being equipped with a swinging span, supported by a center abutment or pier in the navigable channel. Surrounding the center abutment was piling intended to protect vessels from damage. The railroad company and the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company jointly owned a dock below, constructed on piles driven in the bed of the stream and on the shore. It was floored over, but open underneath. As the vessels drifted down, the Moore struck and damaged this dock, for which claim is made. The Eads' stern brought up against a pier below the bridge. The Moore brought up against the dock abreast the Eads, and the Reis, drifting stern first, entered between the Eads and the Moore, and, it is said, in so doing, forced the Eads into collision with the center pier of the railroad company's bridge, thereby damaging the protection piling about the same, for which damages were claimed. It was also averred that, as the three vessels were wedged together at the bridge, the stream was partially dammed, causing the water to rise, increasing the velocity of the current underneath the keels of the Eads and the Reis, so that the current undermined the center pier and shore abutment and carried away some of the protection piling, and for restoring that piling and the support under the center pier and the pier damages were claimed. And it was further claimed that, by reason of the disaster, the railroad company was deprived of the use of its bridge for a period of ten days, and necessarily incurred expense to a large amount.

The usual process issued, the vessel was arrested, and later claimed and bonded by appellee, which subsequently filed its exception to the libel. On the hearing, the district court sustained the exception and dismissed the libel

"on the ground

Page 208 U. S. 318

that, although the property injured by said disaster, said dock, said center pier, and said protection piling work, stood in the navigable water of said river, yet it does not appear from the allegations of the libel that any part of said property so injured was either an instrument of or an aid to navigation, for which reason there is no authority for sustaining the jurisdiction of a court of admiralty over the wrong complained of and the cause of action set forth in the libel. "

Page 208 U. S. 319

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