Two barges owned by Northern
Barge Co. (The Montrose and the Hooper) were moving cargo off the Jersey
The barges were being towed
by tugs belonging to a tugboat company.
There was a storm, and both
barges sunk. The owners of the cargo sued Northern for the loss of cargo,
and Northern sued and the tugboat company for negligence.
The tugboats lacked radios.
If they had radios, the tugboat captains would have known a storm was
coming and they could have gotten to shelter.
The Trial Court found both
Northern and the tugboat company liable for damages. The tugboat company appealed.
The Trial Court found that
the barges and the tugs were all unseaworthy, and assessed half the
damages to Northern and half to the tugboat company.
The tugboat companies argued
that although a few tugboat companies had radios on their ships, at the
time (1928), it was far from common practice, or general custom.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court found
that reasonable prudence is not necessarily common prudence, and just
because a whole industry has lagged in the adoption of new safety
equipment, that doesn't mean it isn't negligent to fail to adopt the new
Basically, it's not excuse
to say, "everybody does it that way." If it would be
reasonably prudent to do something, and you don't do it, you are still negligent even if no one else in the industry is doing
Btw, this case has a strange
name because it's an admiralty case,
and the nomenclature is different.