Why Carslogie SS Co v Royal Norwegian Govt is important
In Carslogie, the House of Lords concluded claimants owe no damages in the tort of negligence where a subsequent natural event means the claimant suffered no further loss. The defendant will only be liable if they exacerbate, or make the claimant more susceptible to, damage.
The defendant’s vessel, Carslogie, collided with the claimant’s vessel, Heimgar. This collision was wholly the fault of the Carslogie. After temporary repairs the Heimgar was declared seaworthy and travelled across the atlantic. During this voyage, heavy weather caused significant damage and left her unseaworthy.
Repairs were completed to make the Heimgar seaworth, during which time permanent repairs were done in respect to the initial damage. The repairs from the collision took 10 days, whilst 30 days was required due to the heavy weather’s damage.
The Heimgar brought a claim against the Carslogie steamship company for, inter alia, the loss of 10 days charter. The Court of Appeal held Carslogie was liable for this loss, so the defendant’s appealed to the House of Lords.
The defendants argued that the Heimgar suffered no damage from the repairs, because the repairs were completed whilst Heimgar was already subjected to being repaired. The claimants argued that the Carslogie Steamship Co owed damages because the ‘negligence’ was a direct cause of the loss.
Overturning the Court of Appeal’s decision, the House of Lords held that the Carslogie did not cause the 10 days of lost earnings. Instead, they held this was wholly attributable to the damage from the heavy weather.
The nature of the alleged ‘damage’ was the lost earnings from being in repairs for 10 days. Because the vessel was rendered unseaworthy by heavy weather for 30 days, the reason Heimgar was unprofitable for 10 days was not the collision but the subsequent, natural events. Therefore, the lost earnings could not be attributed to the collision and Carslogie Steamship Company’s appeal was allowed.
The “Heimgar” was detained in dock 50 days in all, but the collision repairs alone would not have detained her for more than 10 days, whereas the repair of the heavy weather damage alone would have detained her 30 days. On these facts she was, in consequence of the heavy weather damage, a vessel incapable of gainful use during the ten days necessary to complete her collision repairs, and no claim against the “Carslogie” for deprivation of profits in respect of this detention can be established.