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B. Supplemental Chapters
  • 1 Custom and Insurance

    This section looks at further efforts by the law to flesh out the parameters of reasonable behavior. Under certain circumstances, particularly involving fact patterns that recur across entire industries, custom may be invoked to establish evidence of reasonable care. How should custom be worked into a case? Should its presence be definitive?

    We also pause here to consider a factor that makes negligence cases so much more numerous than intentional ones: insurance. Insurance policies don’t cover intentional torts, both because the commission of an intentional tort is thought to be within the control of the policyholder and thus contrary to the risk-spreading purposes of insurance – imagine obtaining “violence insurance” before going out to punch someone – and because it’s seen as unfair to let someone charge his or her violence to another party. Thus such insurance policies are also thought to be void as against public policy. The nature and availability of insurance infuses nearly every tort case. Here we examine ways in which a plaintiff might be tempted to make an otherwise-obvious claim for intentional tort sound in negligence, in order to make available the defendant’s insurance coverage – and how a defendant and his or her insurance company can react, given that the insurance company has a duty to keep its policyholder out of legal peril. Is a defendant’s insurance company working to construe his or her actions as intentional in an ambiguous situation simply upholding public policy, or betraying a policyholder at precisely the time of need? To what extent should courts be on guard against collusion by plaintiffs and defendants to see harm covered by insurance rather than borne by either of them personally?

    • 1.1 Trimarco v. Klein--"The Shatterproof Shower Glass Case"

      Plaintiff was a tenant of defendant's apartment. While the plaintiff opened a glass sliding door to exit the bathtub in his apartment unit, the door shattered, inflicting severe lacerations upon the plaintiff. There was a range of evidence which showed that regular glass was a recognized hazard in the bathroom, and that shatterproof glass was becoming the industry standard for bathtub enclosures.

      Should evidence of industry custom factor into a negligence analysis? If so, in what capacity and to what extent?

      1
      451 N.Y.S.2d 52
      2
      56 N.Y.2d 98, 436 N.E.2d 502
      3
      Vincent N. TRIMARCO et al., Appellants,
      v.
      Irving KLEIN et al., Individually and as Copartners Doing Business as Glenbriar Company, Respondents.
      4
      Court of Appeals of New York.
      5
      May 20, 1982.
      6

      [451 N.Y.S.2d 53] Thomas R. Newman, L. Kevin Sheridan and Louis G. Adolfsen, New York City, for appellants.

      7

      Norman H. Dachs, Mineola, for respondents.

      8
      OPINION OF THE COURT
      9
      FUCHSBERG, Judge.
      10

      After trial by jury in a negligence suit for personal injuries, the plaintiff, Vincent N. Trimarco, recovered a judgment of $240,000. A sharply divided Appellate Division, 82 A.D.2d 20, 441 N.Y.S.2d 62, having reversed on the law and dismissed the complaint, our primary concern on this appeal is with the role of the proof plaintiff produced on custom and usage. The ultimate issue is whether he made out a case.

      11

      The controversy has its genesis in the shattering of a bathtub's glass enclosure door in a multiple dwelling in July, 1976. Taking the testimony most favorably to the plaintiff, as we must in passing on the presence of a prima facie case, we note that, according to the trial testimony, at the time of the incident plaintiff, the tenant of the apartment in which it happened, was in the process of sliding the door open so that he could exit the tub. It is undisputed that the occurrence was sudden and unexpected and the injuries he received from the lacerating glass most severe.

      12

      The door, which turned out to have been made of ordinary glass variously estimated as one sixteenth to one quarter of an inch in thickness, concededly would have presented no different appearance to the plaintiff and his wife than did tempered safety glass, which their uncontradicted testimony shows they assumed it to be. Nor was there any suggestion that defendants ever brought its true nature to their attention.

      13

      Undeveloped in the trial record is the source of a hospital record entry which ascribed the plaintiff's injuries to a "fall through his bathroom glass door". Obviously, this may have been taken into account by the jury, since its verdict called for a reduction of its $400,000 gross assessment of damages by 40% to account for contributory negligence.[1]

      14

      As part of his case, plaintiff, with the aid of expert testimony, developed that, since at least the early 1950's, a practice of using shatterproof glazing materials for bathroom enclosures had come into common use, so that by 1976 the glass door here no longer conformed to accepted safety standards. [451 N.Y.S.2d 54] This proof was reinforced by a showing that over this period bulletins of nationally recognized safety and consumer organizations along with official Federal publications had joined in warning of the dangers that lurked when plain glass was utilized in "hazardous locations", including "bathtub enclosures".[2] Over objection, the trial court also allowed in sections 389-m and 389-o of New York's General Business Law, which, enacted in 1972 though effective only as of July 1, 1973, required, on pain of criminal sanctions, that only "safety glazing material" be used in all bathroom enclosures after the effective date;[3] however, the court carefully cautioned the jury that, because the statute did not apply to existing installations, of which the glass in question was one, it only was to be considered "along with all the other proof in this case, as a standard by which you may measure the conduct of the defendants". And, on examination of the defendants' managing agent, who long had enjoyed extensive familiarity with the management of multiple dwelling units in the New York City area, plaintiff's counsel elicited agreement that, since at least 1965, it was customary for landlords who had occasion to install glass for shower enclosures, whether to replace broken glass or to comply with the request of a tenant or otherwise, to do so with "some material such as plastic or safety glass".

      15

      In face of this record, in essence, the rationale of the majority at the Appellate Division was that, "assuming that there existed a custom and usage at the time to substitute shatterproof glass" and that this was a "better way or a safer method of enclosing showers" (82 A.D.2d, p. 23, 441 N.Y.S.2d 62), unless prior notice of the danger came to the defendants either from the plaintiff or by reason of a similar accident in the building, no duty devolved on the defendants to replace the glass either under the common law or under section 78 of the Multiple Dwelling Law.[4] To this the court added that, were it not dismissing, it would have ordered a new trial because, in its view, the admission of the afore-mentioned sections of the General Business Law, even with the reservations attached by the Trial Judge, constituted reversible error.

      16

      In a dissenting opinion, Justice Leonard Sandler disagreed on both counts; on the underlying liability issue, he found that the plaintiff had presented a clear question of fact for the jury and, on the evidentiary one stemming from the submission of the General Business Law, after noting that a careful marshaling of authorities had persuaded him that it was a "close question" (82 A.D.2d, p. 28, 441 N.Y.S.2d 62), he opined that whether the statute should have gone to the jury was properly within the Trial Judge's discretion. Concurring in part and dissenting in part, Justice Arnold Fein, [451 N.Y.S.2d 55] writing separately, took the position that, while there indeed was "ample" evidence of custom and usage to support the plaintiff's verdict, a new trial was required since the advice to the jury of the contents of the statute, no matter how cushioned by qualifications, "could only be misleading" (82 A.D.2d, p. 30, 441 N.Y.S.2d 62).

      17

      For the reasons which follow, we agree with Justice Sandler and Justice Fein that plaintiff established a prima facie case. However, we would not disturb the conclusion of Justice Fein and the majority that the General Business Law did not belong in the case.

      18

      Our analysis may well begin by rejecting defendants' contention that the shower door was not within the compass of section 78 of the Multiple Dwelling Law. From early on, it was understood that this statute was enacted in recognition of the reality that occupants of tenements in apartment houses, notwithstanding their control of the rented premises, as a practical matter looked to their landlords for the safe maintenance of the tenanted quarters as well. The result was that, if responsibility for keeping "every part thereof * * * in good repair" was not placed on the landlords, defects would remain unremedied (Multiple Dwelling Law, § 78; see Altz v. Leiberson, 233 NY 16, 19, 134 N.E. 703). Therefore, though early cases may have chosen to give the statutory phrase "every part" a restrictive connotation (e.g., Kitchen v. Landy, 215 App.Div. 586, 214 N.Y.S. 241 and Boylan v. 1986 Grand Ave. Realty Corp., 169 Misc. 881, 8 N.Y.S.2d 200 later cases made clear that the remedial reach of the legislation mandated a more expansive interpretation under which fixtures or appliances furnished by the landlord were found to be within the statutory intendment (Herring v. Slattery & Bros., 266 App.Div. 719, 41 N.Y.S.2d 921, affd. 291 N.Y. 794, 53 N.E.2d 368 Rosen v. 2070 Davidson Ave. Corp., 246 App.Div. 588, 284 N.Y.S. 802, mot. for lv. to app. den. 270 N.Y. 676 [defective clothes drier]).

      19

      Which brings us to the well-recognized and pragmatic proposition that when "certain dangers have been removed by a customary way of doing things safely, this custom may be proved to show that has fallen below the required standard" (Garthe v. Ruppert, 264 N.Y. 290, 296, 190 N.E. 643). Such proof, of course, is not admitted in the abstract. It must bear on what is reasonable conduct under all the circumstances, the quintessential test of negligence.

      20

      It follows that, when proof of an accepted practice is accompanied by evidence that the defendant conformed to it, this may establish due care (Bennett v. Long Is. R. R. Co., 163 N.Y. 1, 4, 57 N.E. 79 and, contrariwise, when proof of a customary practice is coupled with a showing that it was ignored and that this departure was a proximate cause of the accident, it may serve to establish liability (Levine v. Blaine Co., 273 N.Y. 386, 389, 7 N.E.2d 673 Put more conceptually, proof of a common practice aids in "formulatthe general expectation of society as to how individuals will act in the course of their undertakings, and thus to guide the common sense or expert intuition of a jury or commission when called on to judge of particular conduct under particular circumstances" (Pound, Administrative Application of Legal Standards, 44 ABA Rep, 445, 456-457).

      21

      The source of the probative power of proof of custom and usage is described differently by various authorities, but all agree on its potency. Chief among the rationales offered is, of course, the fact that it reflects the judgment and experience and conduct of many (2 Wigmore, Evidence § 461; Prosser, Torts § 33). Support for its relevancy and reliability comes too from the direct bearing it has on feasibility, for its focusing is on the practicality of a precaution in actual operation and the readiness with which it can be employed (Morris, Custom and Negligence, [451 N.Y.S.2d 56] 42 Col.L.Rev. 1147, 1148). Following in the train of both of these boons is the custom's exemplification of the opportunities it provides to others to learn of the safe way, if that the customary one be. (See Restatement, Torts 2d, § 295A, Comments a, b.)

      22

      From all this it is not to be assumed customary practice and usage need be universal. It suffices that it be fairly well defined and in the same calling or business so that "the actor may be charged with knowledge of it or negligent ignorance" (Prosser, Torts § 33, p. 168; Restatement, Torts 2d, § 295A, p. 62, Comment a).

      23

      However, once its existence is credited, a common practice or usage is still not necessarily a conclusive or even a compelling test of negligence (1 Shearman & Redfield, Negligence § 10). Before it can be, the jury must be satisfied with its reasonableness, just as the jury must be satisfied with the reasonableness of the behavior which adhered to the custom or the unreasonableness of that which did not (see Shannahan v. Empire Eng. Corp., 204 N.Y. 543, 550, 98 N.E. 9). After all, customs and usages run the gamut of merit like everything else. That is why the question in each instance is whether it meets the test of reasonableness. As Holmes' now classic statement on this subject expresses it, "usually is done may be evidence of what ought to be done, but what ought to be done is fixed by a standard of reasonable prudence, whether it usually is complied with or not" (Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Behymer, 189 U.S. 468, 470, 23 S.Ct. 622, 622-23, 47 L.Ed. 905).

      24

      So measured, the case the plaintiff presented, even without the insertion of sections 389-m and 389-o of the General Business Law, was enough to send it to the jury and to sustain the verdict reached. The expert testimony, the admissions of the defendant's manager, the data on which the professional and governmental bulletins were based, the evidence of how replacements were handled by at least the local building industry for the better part of two decades, these in the aggregate easily filled that bill. Moreover, it was also for the jury to decide whether, at the point in time when the accident occurred, the modest cost and ready availability of safety glass and the dynamics of the growing custom to use it for shower enclosures had transformed what once may have been considered a reasonably safe part of the apartment into one which, in the light of later developments, no longer could be so regarded.

      25

      Furthermore, the charge on this subject was correct. The Trial Judge placed the evidence of custom and usage "by others engaged in the same business" in proper perspective, when, among other things, he told the jury that the issue on which it was received was "the reasonableness of the defendant's conduct under all the circumstances". He also emphasized that the testimony on this score was not conclusive, not only by saying so but by explaining that "the mere fact that another person or landlord may have used a better or safer practice does not establish a standard" and that it was for the jurors "to determine whether or not the evidence in this case does establish a general custom or practice".

      26

      Nevertheless, we reverse and order a new trial because the General Business Law sections should have been excluded. True, if a statutory scheme intended for the protection of a particular class, as is the one here, does not expressly provide for civil liability, there is responsible authority for the proposition that a court may, in furtherance of the statutory purpose, read in such an intent (see Martin v. Herzog, 228 N.Y. 164, 168, 126 N.E. 814; Restatement, Torts 2d, § 286; see, generally, James, Statutory Standards and Negligence in Accident Cases, 11 La.L.Rev. 95). Be that as it may, the fact is that the statutes here protected only those tenants for whom shower glazing was installed after the statutory effective date. Plaintiff was not in that class. Thus, while new installations made during the three-year interval between July 1, 1973, the effective date of the new General Business Law provisions, and July, 1976, when plaintiff was injured, could have counted [451 N.Y.S.2d 57] numerically in the totality of any statistics to support the existence of a developing custom to use safety glass, defendants' objection to the statutes themselves should have been sustained. Without belaboring the point, it cannot be said that the statutes, once injected into the adversarial conflict, did not prejudice the defendants. Nor is it any answer to suggest that balancing the risk of prejudice against the asserted relevancy of the statutes here was a supportable discretionary judicial act. Unlike hearsay, which at times may be rendered admissible by necessity, the other proof of custom here eliminates the possibility of this justification.

      27

      For all these reasons, the order should be reversed and a new trial granted. In so ruling, we see no reason for a retrial of the damages issue. Instead, the new trial will be confined initially to the issue of liability and, if plaintiff once again should succeed in proving that defendants were negligent, to the issue of apportionment of fault between the parties (cf. Ferrer v. Harris, 55 N.Y.2d 285, 449 N.Y.S.2d 162, 434 N.E.2d 231).

      28

      Accordingly, the case should be remitted to Supreme Court, Bronx County, for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

      29

      COOKE, C. J., and JASEN, GABRIELLI, JONES, WACHTLER and MEYER, JJ., concur.

      30

      Order reversed, with costs, and case remitted to Supreme Court, Bronx County, for a new trial in accordance with the opinion herein.

      31

      [1] The chart had been put in evidence in unredacted form as part of the plaintiff's medical proof.

      32

      [2] The organizations included the National Safety Council, the American National Standards Institute and the Consumer Safety Commission. One of the governmental publications, issued by the United States Health Department, was entitled Glass Door Injuries and Their Control and another, emanating from the United States Product Safety Commission, was entitled Hazard Analysis--Injuries Involving Architectural Glass.

      33

      [3] Section 389-o provides "It shall be unlawful within the state of New York to knowingly sell, fabricate, assemble, glaze, install, consent or cause to be installed glazing materials other than safety glazing materials in or for use in, any 'hazardous locations'."

      34

      "Safety glazing materials" as pertinent here, are defined as "glazing material, such as tempered glass, laminated glass, wire glass or rigid plastic, which meets the test requirements of the American National Standards Institute Standard (ANSI Z-97.1--1972), and which are so constructed, treated or combined with other materials as to minimize the likelihood of cutting and piercing injuries resulting from human contact with the glazing material". ( § 398-m, subd. [1].)

      35

      "Hazardous locations", as pertinent here, are defined as "those structural elements, glazed or to be glazed in residential buildings and other structures used as dwellings, * * * known as sliding glass doors * * * shower doors, bathtub enclosures * * * whether or not the glazing in such doors * * * and enclosures is transparent" ( § 398-m, subd. [2]).

      36

      [4] Subdivision 1 of section 78 of the Multiple Dwelling Law provides: "Every multiple dwelling * * * and every part thereof * * * shall be kept in good repair. The owner shall be responsible for compliance with the provisions of this section".

    • 1.2 T.J. Hooper v. Northern Barge Corp.--"The Radio-less Industry Standard Case"

      A company operates two tugs, each towing three barges full of coal for delivery. En route, the tugs encountered a storm which sank the last barge of each tug's tow. The evidence suggests that there was a weather report broadcast over radio which would have warned the tug-captains of the weather and persuaded them to put into harbor. However, the tug-captains only had private radio receiving sets which were broken and their employer did not furnish them with sets for work. At the time of the incident, there was no industry standard or custom of furnishing all boats with radio receivers.

      If use of a new technology is not standard across an industry, should courts nevertheless require the use in an industry-member's duty of reasonable care? More generally, should the non-existence of industry standards limit what courts recognize as reasonable care?

      1
      60 F.2d 737 (1932)
      2
      THE T. J. HOOPER. THE NORTHERN NO. 30 AND NO. 17. THE MONTROSE. In re EASTERN TRANSP. CO. NEW ENGLAND COAL & COKE CO.
      v.
      NORTHERN BARGE CORPORATION. H. N. HARTWELL & SON, Inc.,
      v.
      SAME.
      3
      No. 430.
      4

      Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

      5
      July 21, 1932. 
      6

      Foley & Martin, of New York City (James A. Martin and John R. Stewart, both of New York City, of counsel), for Eastern Transp. Co.

      7

      Burnham, Bingham, Gould & Murphy, of Boston, Mass., and Kirlin, Campbell, Hickox, Keating & McGrann, of New York City (Charles S. Bolster and Miles Wambaugh, both of Boston, Mass., of counsel), for New England Coal & Coke Co. and another.

      8

      John W. Oast, Jr., of Norfolk, Va. and Crowell & Rouse, of New York City, for Northern Barge Corporation.

      9

      Before L. HAND, SWAN, and AUGUSTUS N. HAND, Circuit Judges.

      10
      L. HAND, Circuit Judge.
      11

      The barges No. 17 and No. 30, belonging to the Northern Barge Company, had lifted cargoes of coal at Norfolk, Virginia, for New York in March, 1928. They were towed by two tugs of the petitioner, the "Montrose" and the "Hooper," and were lost off the Jersey Coast on March tenth, in an easterly gale. The cargo owners sued the barges under the contracts of carriage; the owner of the barges sued the tugs under the towing contract, both for its own loss and as bailee of the cargoes; the owner of the tug filed a petition to limit its liability. All the suits were joined and heard together, and the judge found that all the vessels were unseaworthy; the tugs, because they did not carry radio receiving sets by which they could have seasonably got warnings of a change in the weather which should have caused them to seek shelter in the Delaware Breakwater en route. He therefore entered an interlocutory decree holding each tug and barge jointly liable to each cargo owner, and each tug for half damages for the loss of its barge. The petitioner appealed, and the barge owner appealed and filed assignments of error.

      12

      Each tug had three ocean going coal barges in tow, the lost barge being at the end. The "Montrose," which had the No. 17, took an outside course; the "Hooper" with the No. 30, inside. The weather was fair without ominous symptoms, as the tows passed the Delaware Breakwater about midnight of March eighth, and the barges did not get into serious trouble until they were about opposite Atlantic City some sixty or seventy miles to the north. The wind began to freshen in the morning of the ninth and rose to a gale before noon; by afternoon the second barge of the Hooper's tow [738] was out of hand and signalled the tug, which found that not only this barge needed help, but that the No. 30 was aleak. Both barges anchored and the crew of the No. 30 rode out the storm until the afternoon of the tenth, when she sank, her crew having been meanwhile taken off. The No. 17 sprang a leak about the same time; she too anchored at the Montrose's command and sank on the next morning after her crew also had been rescued. The cargoes and the tugs maintain that the barges were not fit for their service; the cargoes and the barges that the tugs should have gone into the Delaware Breakwater, and besides, did not handle their tows properly.

      13

      The evidence of the condition of the barges was very extensive, the greater part being taken out of court. As to each, the fact remains that she foundered in weather that she was bound to withstand. A March gale is not unusual north of Hatteras; barges along the coast must be ready to meet one, and there is in the case at bar no adequate explanation for the result except that these were not well-found. The test of seaworthiness, being ability for the service undertaken, the case might perhaps be left with no more than this. As to the cargoes, the charters excused the barges if "reasonable means" were taken to make them seaworthy; and the barge owners amended their answers during the trial to allege that they had used due diligence in that regard. As will appear, the barges were certainly not seaworthy in fact, and we do not think that the record shows affirmatively the exercise of due diligence to examine them. The examinations at least of the pumps were perfunctory; had they been sufficient the loss would not have occurred.

      14

      To take up the evidence more in detail, the bargee of the No. 30 swore that she was making daily about a foot to eighteen inches of water when she left Norfolk, and Hutson, her owner's agent in charge of her upkeep, testified that a barge which made five inches was unseaworthy. Some doubt is thrown upon the bargee's testimony because he had served only upon moulded barges and the No. 30 was flat-bottomed; from which it is argued that he could not have known just how much she really leaked. Nevertheless, he was a man of experience, who swore to a fact of his own observation. We cannot discredit him merely upon the hypothesis that he did not know how to sound his boat. It is not however necessary to depend upon the proof of her leaking when she left Norfolk; she began to leak badly under stress of weather before which she should have been staunch, at least so far that her pumps could keep her alive, and her pumps failed. She had two kinds, hand and steam, but the first could not be manned. While the leaks had been gaining a little before the breakdown, it is probable, or at least possible, that had the tubes not burst, she would have lived, for the gale moderated on Friday night. The tubes were apparently sound when put in about a year before, and it does not appear why they burst; Hutson was very ambiguous as to how long they should last. The barge answers that it was the cold water which burst them, but the bargee gave no such explanation. Moreover, if she leaked so badly that the water gained until it reached the tubes, this was itself evidence of unseaworthiness. If a vessel is to be excused for leaking, she must at least be able to keep the leak down so as not to flood the pumps.

      15

      The unseaworthiness of the No. 17 is even clearer. Not only did she begin to leak under no greater stress of weather than the No. 30, but her pumps also failed, though for quite another reason. Part of her cargo was held back from the chain locker by a temporary bulkhead, which carried away because of the barge's pounding. She had begun to leak early in the morning of the ninth, but her bargee believed that he could have kept down the water if he could have used his pumps. When the bulkhead gave, the coal fell into the chain locker and clogged the suction, letting the bow fill without relief, putting the barge by the head and making her helpless. In addition a ventilator carried away, the water finding entrance through the hole; and the judge charged her for the absence of a proper cover, on which however we do not rely; the failure of the bulkhead was quite enough. As already intimated, we need not hold that a barge is necessarily unseaworthy because she leaks in a gale; the heaving and straining of the seams will often probe weak spots which no diligence can discover. It is, however, just against that possibility that the pumps are necessary; whatever impedes their action, or might reasonably be anticipated to do so, is a defect which makes her unfit for her service. As to both barges, therefore, we do not resort to the admissions put in the mouths of both bargees, some of them too extravagant for credence. We do not believe for instance that the No. 30 had six feet of water in her when she broke [739] ground at Norfolk, or that she leaked as well when light as when loaded. We doubt also whether the No. 17 was leaking two inches an hour at Norfolk, or that her bargee complained of an overload. Admissions, especially in cases of this kind, are notoriously unreliable; and watermen are not given to understatement.

      16

      A more difficult issue is as to the tugs. We agree with the judge that once conceding the propriety of passing the Breakwater on the night of the eighth, the navigation was good enough. It might have been worse to go back when the storm broke than to keep on. The seas were from the east and southeast, breaking on the starboard quarter of the barges, which if tight and well found should have lived. True they were at the tail and this is the most trying position, but to face the seas in an attempt to return was a doubtful choice; the masters' decision is final unless they made a plain error. The evidence does not justify that conclusion; and so, the case as to them turns upon whether they should have put in at the Breakwater.

      17

      The weather bureau at Arlington broadcasts two predictions daily, at ten in the morning and ten in the evening. Apparently there are other reports floating about, which come at uncertain hours but which can also be picked up. The Arlington report of the morning read as follows: "Moderate north, shifting to east and southeast winds, increasing Friday, fair weather to-night." The substance of this, apparently from another source, reached a tow bound north to New York about noon, and, coupled with a falling glass, decided the master to put in to the Delaware Breakwater in the afternoon. The glass had not indeed fallen much and perhaps the tug was over cautious; nevertheless, although the appearances were all fair, he thought discretion the better part of valor. Three other tows followed him, the masters of two of which testified. Their decision was in part determined by example; but they too had received the Arlington report or its equivalent, and though it is doubtful whether alone it would have turned the scale, it is plain that it left them in an indecision which needed little to be resolved on the side of prudence; they preferred to take no chances, and chances they believed there were. Courts have not often such evidence of the opinion of impartial experts, formed in the very circumstances and confirmed by their own conduct at the time.

      18

      Moreover, the "Montrose" and the "Hooper" would have had the benefit of the evening report from Arlington had they had proper receiving sets. This predicted worse weather; it read: "Increasing east and southeast winds, becoming fresh to strong, Friday night and increasing cloudiness followed by rain Friday." The bare "increase" of the morning had become "fresh to strong." To be sure this scarcely foretold a gale of from forty to fifty miles for five hours or more, rising at one time to fifty-six; but if the four tows thought the first report enough, the second ought to have laid any doubts. The master of the "Montrose" himself, when asked what he would have done had he received a substantially similar report, said that he would certainly have put in. The master of the "Hooper" was also asked for his opinion, and said that he would have turned back also, but this admission is somewhat vitiated by the incorporation in the question of the statement that it was a "storm warning," which the witness seized upon in his answer. All this seems to us to support the conclusion of the judge that prudent masters, who had received the second warning, would have found the risk more than the exigency warranted; they would have been amply vindicated by what followed. To be sure the barges would, as we have said, probably have withstood the gale, had they been well found; but a master is not justified in putting his tow to every test which she will survive, if she be fit. There is a zone in which proper caution will avoid putting her capacity to the proof; a coefficient of prudence that he should not disregard. Taking the situation as a whole, it seems to us that these masters would have taken undue chances, had they got the broadcasts.

      19

      They did not, because their private radio receiving sets, which were on board, were not in working order. These belonged to them personally, and were partly a toy, partly a part of the equipment, but neither furnished by the owner, nor supervised by it. It is not fair to say that there was a general custom among coastwise carriers so to equip their tugs. One line alone did it; as for the rest, they relied upon their crews, so far as they can be said to have relied at all. An adequate receiving set suitable for a coastwise tug can now be got at small cost and is reasonably reliable if kept up; obviously it is a source of great protection to their tows. Twice every day they can receive these predictions, [740] based upon the widest possible information, available to every vessel within two or three hundred miles and more. Such a set is the ears of the tug to catch the spoken word, just as the master's binoculars are her eyes to see a storm signal ashore. Whatever may be said as to other vessels, tugs towing heavy coal laden barges, strung out for half a mile, have little power to manœuvre, and do not, as this case proves, expose themselves to weather which would not turn back stauncher craft. They can have at hand protection against dangers of which they can learn in no other way.

      20

      Is it then a final answer that the business had not yet generally adopted receiving sets? There are, no doubt, cases where courts seem to make the general practice of the calling the standard of proper diligence; we have indeed given some currency to the notion ourselves. Ketterer v. Armour & Co. (C. C. A.) 247 F. 921, 931, L. R. A. 1918D, 798; Spang Chalfant & Co. v. Dimon, etc., Corp. (C. C. A.) 57 F.(2d) 965, 967. Indeed in most cases reasonable prudence is in fact common prudence; but strictly it is never its measure; a whole calling may have unduly lagged in the adoption of new and available devices. It never may set its own tests, however persuasive be its usages. Courts must in the end say what is required; there are precautions so imperative that even their universal disregard will not excuse their omission. Wabash R. Co. v. McDaniels, 107 U. S. 454, 459-461, 2 S. Ct. 932, 27 L. Ed. 605; Texas & P. R. Co. v. Behymer, 189 U. S. 468, 470, 23 S. Ct. 622, 47 L. Ed. 905; Shandrew v. Chicago, etc., R. Co., 142 F. 320, 324, 325 (C. C. A. 8); Maynard v. Buck, 100 Mass. 40. But here there was no custom at all as to receiving sets; some had them, some did not; the most that can be urged is that they had not yet become general. Certainly in such a case we need not pause; when some have thought a device necessary, at least we may say that they were right, and the others too slack. The statute (section 484, title 46, U. S. Code [46 USCA § 484]) does not bear on this situation at all. It prescribes not a receiving, but a transmitting set, and for a very different purpose; to call for help, not to get news. We hold the tugs therefore because had they been properly equipped, they would have got the Arlington reports. The injury was a direct consequence of this unseaworthiness.

      21

      Decree affirmed.

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