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Opinion of the Court.
In this case, in view of the seventh section of the Canadian statute, and the fact that perils occasioned by the want of ordinary care and skill or of seaworthiness were excepted by the policy, the same rule is applicable; hence, the burden was on the plaintiff to show that neither the speed of the steamer nor the defect of the compass could have caused, or contributed to cause, the stranding. If it appeared that the misconduct or unseaworthiness was causa sine qua non, it was an excepted peril, and that, as stated by Judge Brown, “ought to suffice for the exoneration of the underwriter in a case where a steamer, equipped with a compass known to be defective, is driven in a dense fog, with unabated speed, and in direct violation of a local statute, upon an island lying but eight miles off her usual track.” We think there was no error in giving the eleventh instruction asked by the defendant, and forming the subject of the eighteenth assignment of error. And this disposes also of the sixteenth and seventeenth errors assigned, as the burden was upon the plaintiff to show that the stranding and its consequent losses, misfortunes and expenses were caused by perils insured against, and as to the perils consequent upon and arising from or caused by the want of ordinary care and skill in navigating the vessel, plaintiff was its own insurer.
And the same result must attend the fourth, fifth and sixth errors assigned, which question the refusal of the court to instruct the jury, as requested in the first, second and third of the plaintiff's instructions, that the stranding of the Spartan, while a dense fog was prevailing, was an accident which was prima fucie covered by the policy, and for which the insurers were prima facie liable, and that if the fog contributed proximately to the stranding, the insurers would be liable.
The jury were entitled to draw their conclusions, not from a part, but from the whole, of the facts in the case, and the difficulty in these instructions is that they are based upon a partial view of the testimony. It was necessary to the plaintiff's case that it should appear from the whole proof that the loss was not occasioned by the want of ordinary care by the master, or on account of unseaworthiness, and was not within
Opinion of the Court.
exceptions contained in the policy, against which plaintiff was not insured. Union Insurance Company v. Smith, 124 U. S. 405. The jury were the judges of all the facts proved; and the court charged that if they found that the vessel “was carried ashore by the current or by any mysterious cause which you are unable to explain, then the loss will be within the policy and the plaintiff would be entitled to recover;" and again, "if you find that this vessel was stranded by reason of want of ordinary care and skill in her navigation or by reason of a defective compass, the plaintiff is not entitled to recover; on the other hand, if you find that she was stranded by circumstances, by reason of the current or by perils of the sea - any other peril of the sea - then the plaintiff would be entitled to your verdict ;” and also: “Stranding is one of the perils insured against in the policy, and if the jury find that the stranding was the proximate result of the fog or currents of the lake prevailing, then the owners of the steamer have made a case which entitles them to your verdict in this case."
It appears to us that this branch of the case was left to the jury in a manner in respect to which the plaintiff has no ground of complaint. Certainly the state of facts disclosed by the record precludes the claim that instructions more favorable to the plaintiff could reasonably have been given, and this is illustrated by cases cited.
Bazin v. The Steamship Company, 3 Wall. Jr. C. C. 229, 239, was a suit for loss of merchandise under a bill of lading, which absolved the carrier from "accidents from machinery, boilers, steam, or any other accidents of the seas, rivers and steam navigation, of whatever nature or kind soever.” The steamer was wrecked on Cape Race in a snow-storm, under the following circumstances: “She struck the point of Cape Race -- up to that time she continued perfectly seaworthy. If she had not struck, at the average rate of our passage, we would have been in Philadelphia in five days more. The steamer was wrecked. We backed off the point of Cape Race, and run her on shore to save the lives of the passengers, and to keep her from sinking. There was no tempest; she struck in a dense fog — and the sinking of the vessel, and the dam
Opinion of the Court.
age done, resulted from her striking the cape.” “Here, then,” said Mr. Justice Grier, “ we have no other reason given by the captain, nor any testimony whatever, as to how or why this great mistake of running against a cape occurred. The answer and the witness both seem to assume that running against a cape or a continent is one of the usual accidents and unavoidable dangers of the sea. That cannot be termed an accident of the sea,' within the exceptions of the bill of lading, which proper foresight and skill in the commanding officer might have avoided. If the compass on the new iron vessel was not sufficiently protected to traverse correctly, the vessel was as little seaworthy as if she had no compass — and this should have been carefully ascertained before she started on her voyage. If there was no fault in the compass, then it is very evident that the officer who is thirty or forty miles wrong in his calculation, and driving through a thick fog with a full head of steam, and first discovers his true position by running on an island, a cape or a continent, has neither the skill nor the prudence to be entrusted with such a command — and for want of such an officer the vessel is not seaworthy. That a steamboat has been either ignorantly, carelessly or recklessly dashed against a cape in a thick fog, cannot be received as a plea to discharge the carrier.”
In The Kestrel, 6 P. D. 182, the master was suspended by the Wreck Commissioner, with the concurrence of two captains sitting as assessors, because of the stranding of the steamship Kestrel, by reason of negligent navigation, and this decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeal, Mr. Justice Hannen and Sir Robert Phillimore, assisted on the hearing by two of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House.
The Wreck Commissioner, among other reasons for his report, said : “It appears to us that the master is in this dilemma : either the weather was so foggy that it was not possible to see the island until they were within a ship's length of it, and in that case he would not have been justified in going at full speed, which we are told was ten knots an hour; or it was not very foggy, and in that case it is difficult to account for the island not having been seen until they were
Opinion of the Court.
within a ship's length of it, unless indeed there was a very bad lookout being kept on board. In either case the master would seem to have been guilty of a neglect of the ordinary precautions required from seamen for the safe navigation of their vessels."
The Court of Appeal held that the master was guilty of a wrongful act in running the vessel at such a rate of speed as he did in the state of the weather which existed, and also in that he continued to steer the course he did in a fog.
The exceptions in this policy protect the insurer against the excepted perils, as a shipper is protected under a bill of lading from loss to which the negligence of the carrier has contributed. And, as already remarked, if the peril was caused by negligence or unseaworthiness, notwithstanding it was the fog which prevented the mate from seeing the island, the predominating and efficient cause was the negligence or unseaworthiness, and must be regarded as the proximate cause, under the circumstances. Waters v. Merchants Louisville Ins. Co., 11 Pet. 213; Insurance Co. v. Transportation Co., 12 Wall. 19+, 199.
The unseaworthiness especially relied on was the alleged defect of the compass.
The plaintiff in error complains of the refusal to give the fourth instruction asked by his counsel, as follows:
“ There is no evidence in the case which even tends to prove the unseaworthiness of the Spartan except in regard to her compass, and if the jury find that the compass did not vary more than vessels' compasses ordinarily do, that the steamer had been navigated by the same compass without trouble from the time that she left La Chene, on the St. Lawrence River, up to the time of the disaster, and that the officers of the steamer at the time she started upon the voyage on which the stranding took place believed the compass to be reliable, and had reason for so believing, then the insurers would not be relieved from liability on account of any supposed defect in the compass."
Exceptions were also taken to the parts of the charge italicized in the following:
Opinion of the Court.
Upon the question of speed I will have a word to say, although it is covered, so far as the law of the case is concerned, by my general charge, that if you find the loss occurred by her being navigated at an excessive speed, there can be no recovery; still it is for you to judge whether, under all the circumstances of the case, she was navigating at too great a speed. The law of Canada provides : « That all vessels shall run in a fog at a moderate rate of speed. Now, it strikes me
but the question is one for your determination — that a vessel is not under an obligation while navigating the open lake to slacken her speed because of a fog unless there is some reason to apprehend collision with another vessel, or unless the vessel is so near the shore or known to be so near the shore that she might run upon it, unless she was navigated at a less rate of speed, and if this compass had been a proper compass, and there was no reason to think it was otherwise, I should feel loth myself to charge the vessel with fault on account of excessive speed. On the other hand, if this compass were known to the captain, or he had good reason to believe it was defective, then it would strike me that in passing in the neighborhood of Caribou Island he should have directed the speed of the steamer to be slowed. But, as I said before, gentlemen, , that is a question for your consideration, and I do not undertake to direct you one way or the other in regard to this fact, but merely to say in general terms that if you find that the loss was occasioned by the excessive speed of the vessel or by her want of a lookout or by the defects of the compass, the defendant is not liable. With regard to the defective compass, the master and crew state in their protest that they attribute the loss to a defective compass, and while that statement is not binding upon the plaintiff here and while the plaintiff is not estopped, as we say, or prevented from showing that the loss is attributable to other causes, it undoubtedly is entitled to considerable weight. On the other hand, it is shown that the vessel had navigated from Owen Sound up to Sault Ste. Marie and from the Sault up to Port Arthur with this compass, and that no unusual deviation had been detected, except that the captain thought the compass was a little slow, as he said. Now, then, gentle