Canadian Salt Company Limited v. The Irving Cedar et al

In Collisions and Ships on (Updated )

This action arose out of a collision between a ship and a wharf that occurred when the ship was performing ice breaking operations for the Plaintiff in the vicinity of the wharf. The Defendants denied liability on the grounds that they were not negligent and further relied upon an exclusion clause and time for suit provision contained in the contract with the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff denied that the clauses were part of the contract and further argued that on their proper interpretation the clauses did not apply to exclude the Defendants’ liability or extinguish the claim. On the issue of negligence the Court seemed to accept that there was a presumption of negligence on the part of the Defendants given that the ship had struck a stationary object. In any event, the Court did find as a fact that the Defendants had been negligent. With respect to the application of the conditions, the Court found that the conditions applied. In reaching this conclusion the Court emphasized that the conditions had been provided to the Plaintiff by the Defendants together with their quotation and that the Plaintiff had accepted that quotation with only minor changes. The Court accepted that there may have been a subsequent conversation between the Plaintiff and Defendants in which the Plaintiff advised some terms of the contract were not acceptable, however, such conversation occurred after the quotation had been accepted and therefore after the contract had been entered into. The exclusion clause relied upon by the Defendants was as follows:

"The tug owner shall not in any circumstances be liable for any loss or damage suffered by the Hirer or caused to or sustained by the Tow in consequence of loss or damage howsoever caused to or sustained by the Tug or any property on board the tug."

The Court noted that such clauses must be interpreted against the interest of the person who made it. The Court considered that the clause was unclear and ambiguous and held that it did not apply to relieve the Defendants from liability for damage caused by their negligence to the wharf.

The Court next considered the notice and time for suit clause of the contract which provided that notice of a claim had to be given in writing within six months and that suit must be brought within one year. The Court held that this clause was most clear and that as the Plaintiff had not brought suit within one year its action was extinguished. In the result, the Plaintiff’s claim was dismissed.