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Hewlett v. Barge Bertie

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
418 F.2d 654 (1969)


Barge BA 1401 (Barge) was declared a constructive total loss by its prior owner because its repair costs after an accident were greater than its purchase price or market value. The Barge was salvaged by Latham Hewlett (plaintiff) for use as a pontoon in salvage operations. The Barge’s only market value was as scrap metal for $5,616. Subsequently, the Barge collided with Barge Bertie (defendant), which was owned by C. G. Willis Company, Inc. (defendant). The only damage to the Barge was a dent in its starboard side, which did not prevent its use as a pontoon. Hewlett brought suit against Willis for reimbursement for the damaged Barge. At trial, Hewlett testified that the Barge could also be used to transport telephone poles, although the Barge had not been used for this purpose. However, both parties agreed that the dent did not prevent the Barge’s use for such transportation. Furthermore, the dent did not affect the Barge’s market value as scrap metal. Repairing the dent would cost approximately $2,895. Because the Barge had previously been declared a constructive total loss, and because no real damages had been shown, the district court awarded nominal damages of $1. The district court made no finding as to the value of the Barge. Hewlett appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Bryan, J.)

Dissent (Haynsworth, C.J.)

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