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Ira S. Bushey & Sons, Inc. v. United States - Case Brief
398 F.2d 167
While a U.S. Coast guard ship was being overhauled it was floating on a drydock in a Brooklyn canal. Lane, a drunken sailor was coming back from leave. He turned three large wheels at least twenty times each. They were the valves for releasing water into the dock. The water caused the boat to shift and crash into the dock. Both the ship and the dock were damaged. P filed suit against D for damage caused by Lane.
The DC granted judgment for the P. The government appeals.
Whether the government is vicariously liable for damages to a drydock that was caused by a drunken sailor who was returning to the ship?
Lane’s conduct was not so “unforeseeable” as to make it unfair to charge the Government with responsibility. The fact that the government could not foresee the sailor’s precise conduct is immaterial as long as the government created the risk that the conduct could occur. Here, Lane had come within the closed-off area where his ship lay, to occupy a berth which the government insisted he have access, and while his act is not readily explicable, at least it was not shown to be due entirely to facets of his personal life. The risk that seamen going and coming from the Tamaroa might cause damage to the dry dock is enough to make it fair that the enterprise bear the loss.
Unlike conduct related to a sailor’s personal life, the risk that seamen coming and going may have an opportunity to damage the drydock is sufficient to impose liability on the government.
Respondeat superior imposes liability on an employer for an employee’s conduct if the employer created the risk that the conduct would occur.
Government is liable for damaged caused by a drunken sailor returning to a docked ship.
Dissent or Concurrence: