The T.J. Hooper
60 F2d 737 (2d Cir. 1932)

  • Two barges owned by Northern Barge Co. (The Montrose and the Hooper) were moving cargo off the Jersey Coast.
    • The barges were being towed by tugs belonging to a tugboat company.
  • There was a storm, and both barges sunk. The owners of the cargo sued Northern for the loss of cargo, and Northern sued and the tugboat company for negligence.
    • The tugboats lacked radios. If they had radios, the tugboat captains would have known a storm was coming and they could have gotten to shelter.
  • The Trial Court found both Northern and the tugboat company liable for damages. The tugboat company appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that the barges and the tugs were all unseaworthy, and assessed half the damages to Northern and half to the tugboat company.
    • The tugboat companies argued that although a few tugboat companies had radios on their ships, at the time (1928), it was far from common practice, or general custom.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that reasonable prudence is not necessarily common prudence, and just because a whole industry has lagged in the adoption of new safety equipment, that doesn’t mean it isn’t negligent to fail to adopt the new equipment.
    • Basically, it’s not excuse to say, “everybody does it that way.” If it would be reasonably prudent to do something, and you don’t do it, you are still negligent even if no one else in the industry is doing it.
  • Btw, this case has a strange name because it’s an admiralty case, and the nomenclature is different.