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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

Wilson v Grose [1835] NSWSupC 21

admiralty - negligence - steamships, collision between

Supreme Court of New  South Wales

Forbes C.J., 25 March 1835

Source: Australian, 31 March 1835[1 ]

Wednesday. - Before His Honor the Chief Justice and a Special Jury.

Wilson and others v. Grose and others.  This was an action for damages sustained by the negligence of the defendants servants on board the steamer Sophia Jane, on the passage from Sydney to Newcastle, on the 12th January.

Mr. Foster stated the case, and called several witnesses.  Captain Ellis, of the Tamar, deposed that having started with his vessel, he kept under easy sail, not wishing to reach his destination before daylight; the Sophia Jane, which started shortly after, appeared to hang about him, and crossed him once or twice very nearly.  At about 20 minutes to one the Sophia Jane was nearly abreast of him, and at one was about a mile ahead; some time afterwards he was roused from below by hearing his mate call to the man at the helm ``hard a starboard" - he jumped up on deck, and say the Sophia Jane coming down upon him - he hailed them; but received no answer; the Tamar's engine had been previously stopped - as his vessel was rounding off her course, the Sophia Jane struck her on the starboard beam, just abaft of the paddle box.  It was a dark night, and thick weather, though there had been a moon, not a full one.

John Woodley, mate of the Tamar, had the watch on the night in question; at about two o'clock to three he called the watch to assist him in shifting a cask, when the steersman cried out ``sail" - he saw the Sophia Jane bearing right down upon them, and called out ``hard a starboard," and as she was rounding off, the Sophia Jane struck her.  His vessel was going 8 knots an hour - the other steamer was also going a good pace, with her engine going, and her fore and aft sail set.

After some more evidence corroborative of the above, Mr. Wentworth for the defence, stated that he should prove by the evidence of the plaintiffs, as well as from that which he should produce, that it was a mere casualty; Captain Mullhall of the Sophia Jane deposed, that between 12 and 4 on the night in question, he was awoke by the snapping of the tiller chains; while he and his men were occupied in repairing them, the Tamar ran right across his bow; his engine was stopped at the time, and the fore-sheet hauled to windward, the vessel was quite unmanageable at the time.

After the examination of several more witnesses, Mr. Foster contended that the evidence of defendants had strengthened his case; if unskilful people were sent out in command of vessels the owners were liable.

The Chief Justice in summing up said, that it was the same at sea as on the highway - it was the duty of both parties to look out, and if there had been a mere casualty, the Jury must return a verdict for defendants.

The Jury after an hour's deliberation returned a verdict for the defendants.



[1 ] See also Sydney Herald, 26 March 1835.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University