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Zittrain Torts Playlist Spring 2013

T.J. Hooper v. Northern Barge Corp.

A company operates two tugs, each towing three barges full of coal for delivery. En route, the tugs encountered a storm which sank the last barge of each tug's tow. The evidence suggests that there was a weather report broadcast over radio which would have warned the tug-captains of the weather and persuaded them to put into harbor. However, the tug-captains only had private radio receiving sets which were broken and their employer did not furnish them with sets for work. At the time of the incident, there was no industry standard or custom of furnishing all boats with radio receivers. If use of a new technology is not standard across an industry, should courts nevertheless require the use in an industry-member's duty of reasonable care? More generally, should the non-existence of industry standards limit what courts recognize as reasonable care?