The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS
This matter is before the court on exceptions to the Commissioner's report which was filed March 5, 1959. Argument was had on April 29th and the last brief was received on May 19th.
The petitioners in limitation challenge the findings and conclusions of the Commissioner because of the inclusion as part of the Michael's damages, of the total sum paid in settlement of claims made against that ship for damages occasioned by its fault in the collision of May 25, 1952, reported under the above title in D.C., 133 F.Supp. 510, affirmed 2 Cir., 234 F.2d 374, certiorari denied The A. C. Dodge, Inc. v. J. M. Carras, Inc., 352 U.S. 928, 77 S. Ct. 227, 1 L. Ed. 2d 163.
It is to be understood that the said claims were against the Michael, and not against the petitioners.
The petitioners' brief contains the following:
'Since the Michael owner evidently claims to stand in the shoes of the holders of the death and injury claims which it has settled * * *' etc.
This court does not so understand. The owner of the Michael is not an assignee of any such claim. The ship has recognized its legal duty as a tort-feasor and the owner has paid money to those entitled thereto, in extinguishment of a legal liability to each. The Michael asserts that its damages embrace not only hull damage, but the total sum so paid in liquidation of claims which otherwise would have gone to judgment or decree.
It was stipulated before the Commissioner 'that the amounts paid by Carras' (owner of the Michael) 'in settlement of third party claims were reasonable and proper * * *.'
The issue now raised will be seen to be one of law.
It is to be remembered that this was a both to blame case; that the Dodge was a total loss, and had no claims for pending freight. All that the Dodge could bring into this proceeding for the benefit of claimants against it was its cause for collision damages against the Michael.
That was the subject of suit in the U.S. District Court in Maryland, filed June 9, 1952.
The cargo insurers on the Dodge intervened, and that suit was stayed pending ultimate disposition of this cause. Thereafter that litigation was transferred to this court, and later was consolidated with this proceeding.
The hearings before the Commissioner were wisely brought into focus as the result of discussions between counsel and the Commissioner embodied in a stipulation as follows:
Michael collision losses:
a. Physical damage to the Michael and loss of her ...