Conole v Redbank Oyster Company

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
Judgment Date01 January 1976
Date01 January 1976
Docket Number[1969 No. 3516 P.]
Conole v. Redbank Oyster Co.
James Conole
Plaintiff
and
Redbank Oyster Company Limited and Nicholas Stassen, Defendants—Fairway Fabrications Limited, Third party
An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Fourth party
[1969 No. 3516 P.]

Supreme Court

Negligence - Shipowner - Ship-builder - Damages for death resulting from shipwreck - Causa causans - Foresight - Civil Liability Act, 1961 (No. 41). ss. 21, 29.

Section 21 of the Civil Liability Act, 1961, provides that a concurrent wrongdoer may recover contribution from any other wrongdoer who, if sued at the time of the wrong, would have been liable in respect of the same damage.

The first defendant's motor vessel capsized on the last of six trips that it made on the 29th June, 1969, and several of its 50 passengers (including the plaintiff's daughter) were drowned. The vessel had been built by the third party and was unseaworthy when delivered to the first defendant shortly before the accident. The defendants were aware that on its fifth trip on the same day the vessel, with five passengers on board, had proved to be unseaworthy and dangerous. The plaintiff, as personal representative of his daughter, recovered damages from the defendants for their negligence. The defendants' claim for an indemnity or a contribution from the third party was dismissed in the High Court on the ground that the effective cause of the death was the negligence of the defendants who, with knowledge of the dangerous condition of the vessel, allowed the vessel to put to sea on the sixth trip overladen with passengers. On appeal by the defendants it was

Held by the Supreme Court (Walsh, Budd and Henchy JJ.), in disallowing the appeal, that in the circumstances the third party would not have been liable at the suit of the plaintiff because any negligence of the third party was not the causa causans of the death.

Appeal from the High Court.

The plaintiff, as personal representative of his daughter Frances Conole, claimed damages from the defendants in the High Court pursuant to s. 48 of the Civil Liability Act, 1961, for the benefit of the dependants of his daughter who died on the 29th June, 1969, by drowning as a result of the capsize of the m.v. "Redbank" which had been built by the third party and was owned by the first defendant. The second defendant was the managing director of the defendant company. On the 22nd October, 1971, by consent of the parties, judgment for £1,000 and costs was entered in the High Court (Griffin J.) against the defendants.

On the 6th March, 1972, the High Court (Henchy J.) directed that the issues between the defendants and the third party, and those between the third and fourth parties, should be tried by a judge without a jury. The defendants claimed that the third party had built the motor vessel (a Fairway Gillie model) negligently in that the vessel had been delivered with freeing ports (measuring 15''X4'') placed 18'' forward of the transom and without flaps and being 12'' above the deck which was approximately level with the water line, so that there was only an effective freeboard of 12 inches. The contract between the defendants and the third party stipulated that the motor vessel should be built in accordance with the requirements of the fourth party (the Irish Sea Fisheries Board) who had received an application from the defendants for a grant of money to enable them to buy the motor vessel. The third party claimed that the fourth party had expressly required that the freeing ports should be of the design provided by the third party when the motor vessel was delivered to the defendants.

On the 2nd October, 1972, the trial judge (Pringle J.) held that the motor vessel was defective for the purposes for which it was being used1 by the defendants when it capsized, and that the defendants were aware of that fact immediately before its last trip. He also held that the motor vessel was defective for the purposes for which it was intended to be used—such as oyster and lobster fishing. However, the trial...

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