Dixilyn Drilling Corporation v. Crescent Towing & Salvage Company

PETITIONER: Dixilyn Drilling Corporation
RESPONDENT: Crescent Towing & Salvage Company
LOCATION: Clauson's Inn

DOCKET NO.: 297
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 372 US 697 (1963)
ARGUED: Mar 21, 1963
DECIDED: Apr 15, 1963

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Dixilyn Drilling Corporation v. Crescent Towing & Salvage Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 21, 1963 in Dixilyn Drilling Corporation v. Crescent Towing & Salvage Company

Earl Warren:

Number 297, Dixilyn Drilling Corporation, petitioner versus Crescent Towing and Salvage Company.

Mr. Vickery.

E. D. Vickery:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

We're involved here with a case that deals primarily with the construction of an agreement or a contract between an offshore billing contractor and the towage company or the tug company hired by the drilling contractors to move this rig from Pittsburgh-Mississippi to the Port of New Orleans where additional construction could be completed with respect to it.

On the voyage from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, one of the legs of this offshore drilling rig struck the Natchez-Vidalia Bridge crossing the Mississippi River.

The trial court found that this collision with the bridge of the -- across the Mississippi River resulted solely and completely from the negligence and the fault of the Crescent Towing and Salvage Company who had supplied the tugs for this towage service.

He predicated this finding of sole fault against Crescent primarily on three grounds.

First of all, that Crescent had negligently failed to supply sufficient power to control the drilling rig at all times during the movement down the Mississippi River, which I submit to this Court was the very essence of its towing contract, supplying of sufficient power to control this rig at all times.

Secondly, the Court imposed liability on Crescent solely in this case because it furnished an unseaworthy tug or an unseaworthy piece of equipment to participate in this activity.

And the unseaworthiness of it was demonstrated by the fact that at the crucial moment approximately 100 feet upstream from the bridge that the engine on this particular tug failed and reduce the horsepower that was available to control this rig by approximately 600 horsepower.

Potter Stewart:

Is that the same as the second reason one as the same as the first one?

E. D. Vickery:

It ties in -- yes, I think it is except that in considering the exculpatory clauses in the contract, Mr. Justice Stewart, Crescent asked you to relieve them not only of their liability for failing to furnish sufficient power but also of their liability for unseaworthiness of their equipment.

Potter Stewart:

Was there an explicit finding of unseaworthiness?

E. D. Vickery:

The Court found that the engine failed as a matter of law that makes the engine unseaworthy.

He did not expressly state in his peti -- in his opinion that it was unseaworthy, but I don't believe anyone would dispute the fact, the mere fact that it failed at the crucial time established the unseaworthiness of the engine on this particular case.

Arthur J. Goldberg:

[Inaudible]

E. D. Vickery:

I don't know of how you can -- unless you have a hole in the hole when the tug sinks, Your Honor then it might be a little bit more unseaworthy.

This is no danger to the crew whether if it affects the engine.

The third crucial finding of negligence against Crescent was the fact the evidence in the record demonstrated quite clearly that approximately a mile and a half or two miles upstream from this bridge, there was an adequate amount of water in the river where the tugs could have lowered the legs to the desired depth for 55 feet and tested the ability of these tugs to hold and control this rig before they ever attempted to take it down across the rock way immediately above the Mississippi River.

These were the three principle findings that were made by the district judge in assessing sole fault against the Crescent Towing and Salvage Company.

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Vickery, this case involves the failure to lower these legs and that's the immediate cause of hitting the bridge.

E. D. Vickery:

Yes sir.

Potter Stewart:

There's a picture of this rig in the opening front page of the -- what are we talking about?

Which legs are we going to lower and how?

E. D. Vickery:

You lower all three of them, Your Honor.

All three would be lowered to a depth of 55 feet in the water.

This would be necessary in order to leave only 90 feet of the legs above --

Potter Stewart:

Above.

E. D. Vickery:

-- the water.

Potter Stewart:

An elevation of 90 feet.