The Sir John Crosbie was unloading coal at the plaintiff's wharf when a storm came up. The boat remained moored to the dock and caused significant damage. An action was brought for damages sustained by the plaintiff's wharf as a result of the defendant's ship being pressed against the wharf by a wind of gale force based on the defendant's negligence for failing to remove the ship from the wharf and in failing to take in due time unspecified measures of avoiding damage to the wharf. Munn was unsuccessful at trial and was appealed to the Exchequer Court.
- Who is liable for the damage to a wharf during a storm?
Appeal dismissed with costs.
Unlike in Vincent v Lake Erie Transportation Co., the crew of the Sir John Crosbie took no steps to keep the boat secure. The court, as a result, treated this as an inevitable accident, just as if the boat has crashed non-negligently against the dock before it came. Liability in the Vincent case was based on the fact that those in charge of the ship deliberately held it in the position that damage occurred by tying new ropes. In this case, there were no additional steps taken to preserve the ship at the expense of the wharf. There was no evidence of renewal of lines to hold the ship in position that would damage the dock in order to preserve the ship.
Vincent liability only comes into play in cases of necessity. In these cases, you are liable in tort, but you must pay for the damages you caused.