207 U.S. 398 (1907), 71, The Hamilton

Docket Nº:No. 71
Citation:207 U.S. 398, 28 S.Ct. 133, 52 L.Ed. 264
Party Name:The Hamilton
Case Date:December 23, 1907
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 398

207 U.S. 398 (1907)

28 S.Ct. 133, 52 L.Ed. 264

The Hamilton

No. 71

United States Supreme Court

December 23, 1907

Argued October 24, 1907




Until Congress acts on the subject, a state may legislate in regard to the duties and liabilities of its citizens and corporations while on the high seas and not within the territory of any other sovereign.

Where a fund is being distributed in a proceeding to limit the liability of the owners of a vessel, all claims to which the admiralty does not deny existence must be recognized, whether admiralty liens or not.

The statute of Delaware giving damages for death caused by tort is a valid exercise of the legislative power of the state, and extends to the case of a citizen of that state wrongfully killed while on the high seas in a vessel

Page 399

belonging to a Delaware corporation by the negligence of another vessel also belonging to a Delaware corporation. A claim against the owner of one of the vessels in fault can be enforced in a proceeding in admiralty brought by such owner to limit its liability.

When both vessels in collision are in fault, the representative of a seaman on one of the vessels, killed without contributory negligence on his part, may, in a proceeding to limit liability, where an action is given by the state statute against the owner of the other vessel, recover full damages, and are not limited to damages recoverable under the maritime law against the seaman's own vessel for death or injury caused by negligence of the master thereof or his fellow servant thereon. Neither the seaman's contract with the owner of the vessel he is on, nor the negligence of his own vessel, nor any provision of the Harter Act affects the claim against the other vessel.

146 F. 724 affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 402

HOLMES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a proceeding for the limitation of liability of the steamship Hamilton in respect of a collision on the high seas with the steamship Saginaw, in which the Saginaw was sunk and her chief mate and some of her crew and passengers were drowned. It is found, and not disputed, that both vessels were to blame. Both vessels belonged to corporations of the State of Delaware. A statute of that state, after enacting that actions for injuries to the person shall not abate by reason of the plaintiff's death, provides that,

whenever death shall be occasioned by unlawful violence or negligence, and no suit be brought by the party injured to recover damages during his or her life, the widow or widower of any such deceased person, or, if there be no widow or widower, the personal representatives, may maintain an action for and recover damages for the death and loss thus occasioned.

Act of January 26, 1886, chap. 31, p. 28, vol. 13, Part 1, as amended

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by Act of March 9, 1901, chap. 210, p. 500, vol. 22, Delaware Laws. On the strength of this statute, the representatives of a passenger and...

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