The Moorcock (1889) 14 PD 64

Ship damaged at defendant’s jetty; whether implied term to take reasonable care

Facts

Ship-owners contracted with the defendant wharfingers to discharge a ship at their jetty. The jetty extended into the River Thames where the ship must necessarily ground at low water. The river-bed adjacent to the jetty was not vested in the wharfingers, and they had no control over it. They had taken no steps to determine whether the space was safe for the ship and, on grounding, she suffered damage because of the uneven nature of the river-bed next to the jetty. The ship-owners claimed for breach of contract.

Issues

The wharfingers contended there was no term of the contract stating they were under a duty to ascertain the state of the river-bed. There was no implied warranty that the space was a safe place for the ship, and nor had there been any representation that the condition of the river-bed had been checked. There was no evidence of a lack of reasonable care and the wharfingers had no way of foreseeing the risk of damage to the ship. The ship-owners argued it must have been an implied term of the contract that the river-bed was safe, because the jetty could not be used at all without the vessel grounding at low water. The wharfingers must be held to have warranted they had taken reasonable care to ascertain the river-bed was safe for the ship to lie on.

Held

The ship owners were successful in their claim. The whole purpose of the contract was to use the jetty and the jetty could not be used without the vessel grounding. The wharfingers must, therefore, be deemed to have impliedly warranted they had taken reasonable steps to ensure the vessel could safely ground without suffering damage.