The Germanic (Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. v. Aitken)

196 U.S. 589, 25 S.Ct. 317, 49 L.Ed. 610 (1905)

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The Germanic (Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. v. Aitken)

United States Supreme Court
196 U.S. 589, 25 S.Ct. 317, 49 L.Ed. 610 (1905)

Facts

The Germanic was a cargo vessel that arrived behind schedule into New York, loaded with cargo and heavily coated with ice. In order to hasten the unloading of the cargo and the preparation of the ship for its next voyage, the ship’s master ordered cargo to be unloaded from all of her hatches at once and coal to be simultaneously loaded on both sides of the vessel. As the cargo was unloaded and coal loaded, the Germanic periodically rolled from a starboard list to a port list, as the balance of the vessel shifted. During this time, the ship’s master ordered some of the cargo to be shifted in the hold in an effort to better balance the vessel. After one such roll, an open coal port slipped below the water line, and the ship began to flood. The Germanic sank, losing cargo that remained onboard. Cargo owners and insurers (plaintiffs) sued Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. (Oceanic) (defendants) under the Harter Act to recover for their loses. The district court awarded damages to the cargo owners, finding that the loss was due to rushed and negligent unloading. The court of appeals affirmed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Holmes, J.)

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