Contracts. Bills of lading generally contain an exception that the carrier shall not be liable for "perils of the sea." What is the precise import of this phrase is not perhaps very exactly settled. In a 'strict sense, the words perils of the sea, denote the natural accidents peculiar to the sea; but in more than one instance they have been held to extend to events not attributable to natural causes. For instance, they have been held to include a capture by pirates on the high sea and a case of loss by collision by two ships, where no blame is imputable to either, or at all events not to the injured ship. Abbott on Sh. P. 3, C. 4 §1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; Park. Ins. c, 3; Marsh. Ins. B. 1, c. 7, p. 214; 1 Bell's Comm. 579; 3 Kent's Comm. 251 n. (a); 3 Esp. R. 67.
2. It has indeed been said, that by perils of the sea are properly meant no other than inevitable perils or accidents upon the sea, and, that by such perils or accidents common carriers are, prima facie, excused, whether there be a bill of lading containing the expression of "peril of the sea," or not. 1 Conn. Rep. 487.
3. It seems that the phrase perils of the sea, on the western waters of the United States
, signifies and includes perils of the river. 3 Stew. & Port. 176.
4. If the law be so, then the decisions upon the meaning of these words become important in a practical view in all cases of maritime or water carriage.
5. It seems that a loss occasioned by leakage, which is caused by rats gnawing a hole in the bottom of the vessel, is not, in the English law, deemed a loss by peril of the sea, or by inevitable casualty. 1 Wils. R. 281; 4 Campb. R. 203. But if the master had used all reasonable precautions to prevent such loss, as by having a cat on board, it seems agreed, it would be a peril of the sea, or inevitable accident
. Abbott on Shipp. p. 3, c. 3, §9; but see 3 Kent's Comm. 243, and note c. In conformity to this rule, the destruction of goods at sea by rats has, in Pennsylvania, been held a peril of the sea, where there has been no default in the carrier. 1 Binn. 592. But see 6 Cowen, R. 266, and 3 Kent's Com. 248, n. c. On the other hand, the destruction of a ship's bottom by worms in the course of a voyage, has, both in America and England, been deemed not to be a peril of the sea, upon the ground, it would seem, that it is a loss by ordinary wear and decay. Park. on Ins. c. 3; 1 Esp. R. 444; 2 Mass. R. 429 but see 2 Cain. R. 85. See generally, Act of God; Fortuitous Event;. Marsh. Ins. eh. 7; and ch. 12, §1.; Hildy on Mar. Ins. 270.