Torts: Admiralty's Happy Wards

Merchant Seaman Thomas D. Dailey was whooping it up in a New Orleans saloon when he fell off a barstool and broke his leg. Whom did he sue? The saloon? The distiller whose spirits decked him? Not Seaman Dailey. He sued the owner of his ship, which was tied up 3½ miles from the scene of his accident.

Claiming that he fell "in the service of the ship," Dailey demanded "wages, maintenance and cure" (full care until maximum recovery). As it happens, Dailey lost—but his seemingly preposterous suit was no surprise in the strange world of admiralty law. Before he...

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