If during a storm a ship owner enters a harbor, becomes disabled, and his ship thrown against the plaintiffs' dock, the plaintiffs cannot recover. Again, if while attempting to hold fast to the dock the lines part, without any negligence, and the vessel is carried against some other boat or dock in the harbor, there would be no liability upon her owner. But where those in charge of the vessel deliberately and by their direct efforts hold their vessel in such a position that the damage to the dock results, and, having thus preserved the ship at the expense of the dock, the owners are responsible to the dock owners to the extent of the injury inflicted.
Plaintiffs owned a wharf in which ships docked to unload cargo. Defendant owned a ship that docked at plaintiffs' wharf during a storm. During the storm, plaintiffs' wharf was damaged by defendant's ship. Plaintiffs brought an action against defendant to recover for the damages to their wharf. The trial court denied defendant's motion for a directed verdict and entered judgment in favor of plaintiffs, and denied defendant's motion for a new trial.
Is Defendant liable for damages incurred to Plaintiff’s property?
On appeal, the state supreme court affirmed, reasoning the damage to plaintiffs' wharf was not caused by an act of God, which would have excused defendant's liability, but was an injury caused by the defendant's prudent intention to use plaintiffs' property for the purpose of preserving its own more valuable property, and the plaintiffs, therefore, were entitled to compensation for the injury done.