Rice et al. v. The Polly & Kitty

20 Fed. Cas. 666 (1789)

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Rice et al. v. The Polly & Kitty

United States Circuit Court for the District of Pennsylvania
20 Fed. Cas. 666 (1789)

Facts

The suit was filed by Rice (plaintiff) and other sailors against the ship, the Polly & Kitty (defendant). Rice and the other sailors were severely disciplined during a voyage by the ship’s captain, James Eggleston, and a mate, Shirtliff. The nature of this discipline was so severe that one of the sailors had to be taken ashore at Lisbon and treated by a surgeon for the injuries inflicted by Eggleston and Shirtliff. The sailors attempted redress of the situation with several approaches—first, by appealing to the captain when Shirtliff was severe. After the captain beat the sailors more severely, Shirtliff told the sailors that he would make them all glad to jump overboard before the sailors returned to America. The sailors then left the ship at Lisbon, although the sailors did seek out and meet with the captain to obtain their wages and clothes. Ultimately, the sailors did not obtain relief, and the captain argued that under their signed articles for the voyage, a 48-hour absence from the vessel without leave was desertion and allowed for forfeiture of wages. Regardless, the sailors returned to Philadelphia by another boat and filed this suit, seeking their wages.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Peters, J.)

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