The rule of divided damages in admiralty law, established by the Supreme Court in 1855 in The Schooner Catharinev. Dickinson, requires that if both parties are at fault each must bear one-half of the total dam- ages, regardless of his degree of fault. The rule was developed in response to the harsh common law rule of contributory negligence which allowed no recovery and left the parties to pay their own damages. The divided damages rule was acknowledged by the Supreme Court as valid as late as 1963, and it was not until 1972 that the Court signaled its intention to reconsider the rule. All other maritime nations had abandoned the divided damages rule in favor of a proportionate damage rule, and American courts had been voicing their dislike of the equal division rule for almost half a century. Generally, the courts complained that the application of the divided damages rule created inequity in any situation where both ships were to blame and fault was clearly not equal. The result was particularly unfair where the vessel with slight fault was hardly damaged and had to make payment to a grossly negligent ship with heavy damage.
Admiralty Law- Supreme Court Sinks Divided Damages Rule,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
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