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U.S. Supreme Court

Wilson v. Pacific Mail Steamship Co., 276 U.S. 454 (1928)

Wilson v. Pacific Mail Steamship Company

Nos. 146 and 173

Argued January 6, 1928

Decided April 9, 1928

276 U.S. 454


In fine, clear weather, on a smooth, open sea, the Newport, an iron passenger steamer, proceeding eastward at nine knots, rammed the port side of the Svea, a wooden steam schooner, steaming northward at eight knots. They had been approaching each other in full view for more than half an hour. Twenty minutes before the collision, the master of the Newport quitted the bridge, leaving an chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 276 U. S. 455

inexperienced officer in charge, and, at the trial, he failed to explain this conduct or to show what, if any, directions he gave or precautions he took to insure proper navigation. Each vessel held her course and speed up to the moment of the collision. The Svea had tried in vain, by repeated blast of her whistle, to ascertain the Newport's intention. The Newport could have averted the collision by porting her helm or reversing her engines two minutes before it occurred, and there was nothing to inform the Svea that this would not be done until too late for her master to maneuver into safety.


1. That the master of the Newport was presumptively negligent and, in the absence of clear exonerating evidence, was personally liable. P. 276 U. S. 460.

2. The Svea was not at fault in maintaining her course and speed pursuant to the fundamental rule of the International Rule for Navigation at Sea. Her master could not possibly know the result of departing from it, and, on the facts, could not be held indiscreet in following it. P. 276 U. S. 460.

15 F.2d 342, reversed in part, affirmed in part.

District court (Am.Mar.Cas.1924, 1285) affirmed.

Certiorari, 273 U.S. 686, 690, to a decree of the circuit court of appeals which reversed one by the district court in libel proceedings growing out of a collision at sea. The district court held the Newport and her master liable and exonerated the Svea. The circuit court of appeals held both ships at fault and the master of the Newport also liable. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 276 U. S. 459

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