The Pennsylvania

86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 125, 22 L.Ed. 148, 1998 AMC 1506 (1873)

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The Pennsylvania

United States Supreme Court
86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 125, 22 L.Ed. 148, 1998 AMC 1506 (1873)

Facts

Maritime rules for operation during foggy conditions required a steamship to blow a whistle while underway in fog, a sailing ship underway in fog to sound a foghorn, and any vessel at rest in fog to ring a bell. The Mary Troop was a sailing vessel underway in dense fog off the American coast. Rather than sounding a foghorn as required, the Mary Troop was continuously ringing a bell as it moved, despite having a working foghorn on board. The Pennsylvania (defendant) was a steamship in the same area moving unreasonably fast given the conditions. The Pennsylvania was blowing its whistle as required and had lookouts posted. When the lookouts on the Pennsylvania heard the Mary Troop’s bell, they adjusted course in an attempt to avoid the location where they believed the Mary Troop was at rest. The Pennsylvania ran at speed directly into the Mary Troop, however, sinking the sailing vessel instantly and resulting in the loss of six of its crew members. The owners of the Mary Troop (the owners) (plaintiffs) sued the Pennsylvania in federal district court. The district court placed the fault for the entire loss on the Pennsylvania, and the court of appeals affirmed the decision. The Pennsylvania appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Strong, J.)

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