ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, June 16, 2008

Limerick of the Week: Ira S. Bushey & Sons v. U.S.

We already know what to do with a drunken sailor.  That question has been answered in the famous sea shanty and illustrated in this video (with thanks to Meredith Miller for her technical assistance!):

But Judge Friendly had to address the vicarious liability of the U.S. government for the conduct of one of its sailors who returned from shore leave "in the condition for which seamen are famed."  Upon his return to the scenic Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, where his ship was docked, the sailor turned some valves which caused both vessel and dock to list.  The sailor made some attempt to confess his actions but, according to Judge Friendly, his "condition was not such as to encourage proximity."  Eventually the ship fell off the blocks and against the drydock wall, causing damages which the drydock owner sought to recover from the master. 

Judge Friendly rejected the then-operative "motive" or "purpose" test for vicarious liability in favor or a general foreseeability test. 

Ira S. Bushey & Sons, Inc. v. United States

Knowing sailors can drink with the best,
Judge Friendly proposed that the test
For vicarious liailbity
Be foreseeability
Not: "Was it done at the master's behest?"

[Jeremy Telman]

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