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Colonial Cases

Landers v. Wood, 1852

[shipping, salvage]

Landers v. Wood

Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North-China Herald, Shanghai, 18 November 1852



November 18th, 1852.


This was an action brought by Henry Landers, master of the receiving-ship Emily Jane, at Woosung, against Robert Wood, master of the British vessel Sea Queen, to recover compensation for services rendered to that vessel when on shore on the north bank of the Yang-tsze-kiang.  The sum claimed was Drs. 1,000.

The facts of the case rested on the amount of service performed.  It appeared that the master of the schooner Audax seeing the Sea Queen on the Bank signalled to know whether assistance was required, the reply given being "send down some men."  On arriving at Woosung he communicated to Captain Landers this request who immediately obtained boats and above thirty Chinese, and despatched them under the command of of second-mate of the Emily-Jane to the assistance of the vessel, which ultimately got off the bank and arrived in safety at Woosung; Capt. Landers sent in a claim for expenses incurred Drs. 350, payment of which was refused by Captain Wood on the grounds of the charges being exorbitant.

Captain Wood in his defence admitted that some service was rendered, the second officer and his men had been about four days by the ship, but he did not consider their services warranted the expense of the boats and men sent down, and in fact had come to an understanding with him on the subject.

Henry Brown, second officer on board the Emily Jane on being sworn deposed that he had received orders from Captain Landers to proceed with the party to the bank and render all possible assistance, he denied making any agreement with Captain Wood on the subject, both he and his party were fully engaged day and night in assisting in lightening the vessel by discharging the ballast and doing all necessary work.

Thomas Balin, passenger on board the Sea Queen was called by Captain Wood to prove the understanding alleged to have been entered into with the second officer; but his evidence was inconclusive.

The Court went minutely over the items of the account first furnished by Captain Landers and expressed its opinion that the whole of them were fair and moderate considering the service rendered and the risk incurred.  It was true the weather was fair at the time, but there was no certainty of its continuing so and the lives of all would have been jeopardized had it come on to blow.  The Court could not admit of the alleged agreement or entertain the assertion of the master of the Sea Queen of a private arrangement, the second officer had no power to make one, nor was it just on the part of the master after requesting assistance, to endeavour to make a bargain at such a time and place. 

The question then before the Court was simply whether the charges made for the assistance were fair and reasonable; and the Court was of opinion they were; but Capt. Landers now demanded more than appears in his first charge; in which no claim was made for the trouble he had been at in obtaining the Chinese and the boats; but he had been put to great inconvenience and loss of time from repeated journeys to Shanghae to endeavour to get his account settled; clearly therefore he was entitled to some compensation on this head.

The chief point however which weighed with the Court in matters of this nature was the necessity which existed of recompensing those who willingly came forward to render assistance; it was not the business of the Court to hold out premiums for such services, but it was its duty to see in any case brought before it, that full compensation was given, that in future no hesitation might be shown from the fear of being unable to recover even the actual pecuniary expenses those who afforded assistance might be put to.

The Court were of opinion that the sum of Drs. 150 should be awarded to Captain Landers, together with the sum of Drs. 350 the amount first claimed.

Verdict for Plaintiff Drs. 500.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School