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The T.J. Hooper
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
53 F.2d 107 (1931)
The owner of two tugboats, the T.J. Hooper and the Montrose (defendant), was contracted to tow two barges and their cargo of coal from Virginia to New York. The barges and their cargo were lost in a severe storm off the coast of New Jersey. The cargo owners brought an action against the barge owner, seeking damages for the loss of their coal. The tugboat owner instituted limitation proceedings, denying fault and seeking to be relieved of liability. The barge owner answered in the limitation proceedings, claiming that the tugboats' towage was negligent and seeking damages for the value of the barges. The cargo owners also claimed negligent towing and contested the tugboat-owner's right to limitation. At the time of the storm, neither tugboat was equipped with a reliable radio that would have provided them storm warnings in both the morning and evening. The other four tugboats sailing in the similar area had radios, received storm warnings, and safely anchored to the Delaware harbor. There was no law requiring tugboats to have radios, but testimony at trial established that radio usage was "almost . . . a universal practice" among the tugboats operating along the coast. Specifically, a witness for the tugboat owner testified that 90 percent of the tugboats operating along the coast were equipped with radios and that he considered a radio "necessary equipment" for a tug to be reasonably well-equipped. However, the tugboat owner claimed that the tugboats had no duty to carry a radio.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Coxe, J.)
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