Exxon Co., U. S. A. v. Sofec, Inc., 517 U.S. 830, 12 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 830 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

factfinder, subject to limited review. See, e. g., Milwaukee & St. Paul R. Co. v. Kellogg, 94 U. S. 469, 473-476 (1877); Keeton 320-321; 5 Corbin, supra, 998, at 22-23. "A court of law, such as this Court is, rather than a court for correction of errors in fact finding, cannot undertake to review concurrent findings of fact by two courts below in the absence of a very obvious and exceptional showing of error." Graver Tank & Mfg. Co. v. Linde Air Products Co., 336 U. S. 271, 275 (1949); see also Goodman v. Lukens Steel Co., 482 U. S. 656, 665 (1987); Reliable Transfer, 421 U. S., at 401, n. 2. Although Exxon identifies some tension in the various findings made by the courts below,3 we nevertheless conclude that Exxon has not made an "obvious and exceptional showing of error" that would justify our reversal of the courts' ultimate conclusion, reached after a 3-week trial and review of a lengthy and complex record. Without necessarily ratifying the application of proximate causation principles by the courts below to the particular facts here, we decline to reconsider their conclusion.


Finally, Exxon argues that the District Court erred in bifurcating the trial. This issue is not within the questions

3 Exxon argues that the courts' findings—that by 1803, the Nene had gained control of the end of the hose so that it was no longer a threat to the Houston, and that by 1830, the Houston had successfully avoided the peril resulting from alleged breaches of duty on respondents' part, had "reached a safe position," and was "heading out to sea and in no further danger of stranding"—are inconsistent with the apparently uncontested finding that the hose, which was suspended from the ship's crane during efforts to disconnect the hose from the ship, caused the crane to topple at 1944, injuring a crewman. We note in this regard that the District Court expressly found that the captain's failure to plot fixes after 1830 "was entirely independent of the fact of breakout" and that "he voluntarily decided not to plot fixes in a situation where he was able to plot fixes," App. to Pet. for Cert. 64; the Court of Appeals also relied upon the fact that Captain Coyne himself had explained that he did not plot fixes "because he felt it was unnecessary to do so," 54 F. 3d 570, 578 (CA9 1995).


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