Although the general practice of the calling is sometimes determined to be the standard of proper diligence, since in most cases reasonable prudence is in fact common prudence, but strictly it is never its measure, because a whole calling may have unduly lagged in the adoption of new and available devices. It may never 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.
Cargo owners sued the owner of barges which sank in a storm, who then sued the owner of tugs which towed the barges. The trial court found all the vessels unseaworthy, and held each tug and barge jointly and severally liable to cargo owners. The case was appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals.
Were the vessels seaworthy?
The Court affirmed the judgment, holding that the barges were unseaworthy and that their owner did not take reasonable means to make them seaworthy as required by its charter, since they could not withstand a coastal March gale. They leaked badly under the stress of weather, and their pumps were not properly inspected. The court also upheld the finding that the tugs were unseaworthy because they did not have receiving sets with which they could receive weather reports, even though such sets were not standard in the industry.