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Brotherhood Shipping Co. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co.

985 F.2d 323 (7th CIr. 1993)

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Brotherhood Shipping Co. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

985 F.2d 323 (7th CIr. 1993)

Facts

Brotherhood Shipping Co. (Brotherhood) (plaintiff) owned a freighter called the M/V Capetan Yiannis (the Yiannis). In December 1987, the Yiannis was captained by Konstadinos, who was ordered to go to the Port of Milwaukee (the port) to pick up cargo. When he got to the port, Konstadinos was directed to one of two slips opposite a gap in the breakwater. Because of the relative location of the gap, these two slips were dangerous. Several ships had been damaged there during winter storms in a 10-year period, and one ship had sunk. The city of Milwaukee (the city) (defendant) was aware of the danger but did not make any changes to the port. Instead, the city placed a warning in a manual used by mariners that the harbor could be subject to severe surging when there are strong NNE to ENE winds. At 3:00 p.m. on the day of the incident, the harbormaster got a weather report from the Coast Guard warning of high waves and strong winds out of the northeast. The harbormaster prepared a weather notice warning of the imminent storm that could damage ships. The harbormaster did not leave to deliver the notice until 5:00 p.m., and Konstadinos received it at 5:30 p.m. Konstadinos immediately requested a pilot to help direct the ship to a safer location, but the pilot had already left for the day. Unlike most other major ports, the port did not arrange to keep pilots on hand around the clock, despite the port’s claims in the manual that it had all the amenities of a major port. No tugs or lines were available to move the ship. The pilot arrived back at the port at 11:30 p.m., but the storm was too severe to move the ship. The storm caused $4.5 to $5 million in damage to the ship. Brotherhood filed a negligence action against the city among others, and the city counterclaimed for the damage to the slip. The trial court granted the city’s motion for summary judgment, and Brotherhood appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Posner, J.)

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