264 U.S. 219 (2009), Industrial Accident Commission of California

Citation:264 U.S. 219, 44 S.Ct. 302, 68 L.Ed. 646
Party Name:Industrial Accident Commission of California
Case Date:February 25, 1924
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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264 U.S. 219 (2009)

44 S.Ct. 302, 68 L.Ed. 646

Industrial Accident Commission of California

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 25, 1924

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

Syllabus

1. The Act of Congress of June 10, 1922, c. 216, 42 Stat. 634, which, by amendment of Judicial Code, §§ 24, 256, undertakes to permit application of the workmen's compensation laws of the several states to injuries within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, excepting the masters and crews of vessels, is unconstitutional for the reasons explained in Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205. Knickerbocker Ice Co. v. Stewart, 253 U.S. 149, and other cases reviewed. P. 222.

2. So held (a) in a case in which it was sought to compel an employer of stevedores to contribute to an accident fund, as provided by the Workmen's Compensation Act of Washington; (b) in a case involving the power of a commission of California to award compensation for the death of a workman killed while engaged at maritime work, under maritime contract, upon a vessel moored at dock and discharging her cargo. Id.

3. The proviso in the above act of Congress "that the jurisdiction of the district courts shall not extend to causes arising out of injuries

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to or death of persons other than the master or members of the crew, for which compensation is provided by the workmen's compensation law of any state," etc., was intended to supplement the provision allowing rights and remedies under state compensation laws, and, that being ineffectual, the proviso is also. P. 223.

122 Wash. 572 and 220 P. 669 affirmed.

Error to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Washington affirming a judgment of a superior court of the state which dismissed, on demurrer, a complaint brought by the state to recover the sum of $211.45, from W. C. Dawson & Company, as a contribution to the accident fund created by Laws of Washington, 1911, c. 74, the amount claimed being computed on the wages paid by defendant to stevedores working on board ship.

Error also to a judgment of the Supreme Court of California, rendered on review of an award made by the Industrial Accident Commission of the state to the dependents of an employee of the James Rolph Company who died as a result of injuries sustained while working as a stevedore upon a vessel afloat on the navigable waters of San Francisco Bay. The judgment annulled the award as in excess of the Commission's jurisdiction.

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MCREYNOLDS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

These causes turn upon the same point, were heard together, and it will be convenient to decide them by one opinion.

The immediate question presented by No. 366 is whether one engaged in the business of stevedoring, whose employees work only on board ships in the navigable waters of Puget Sound, can be compelled to contribute to the accident fund provided for by the Workmen's Compensation Act of Washington. Laws 1911, p. 345. The state maintains that the objections to such requirement pointed out in Knickerbocker Ice Co. v. Stewart, 253 U.S. 149, were removed by the Act of June 10, 1922, c. 216, 42 Stats. 634. * Its supreme court ruled otherwise. 122 Wash. 572, 582.

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In No. 684, the Supreme Court of California approved the conclusion of the Supreme Court of Washington and declared the Act of June 10, 1922, went beyond the power of Congress. It accordingly held the Industrial Accident Commission had no jurisdiction to award compensation for the death of a workman killed while actually engaged at maritime work, under maritime contract, upon a vessel moored at her dock in San Francisco Bay and discharging her cargo. 220 P. 669.

The judgments below must be affirmed; the doctrine of Knickerbocker Ice Co. v. Stewart, to which we adhere, permits no other conclusion. There, we construed the Act of October 6, 1917, c. 97, 40 Stat. 3952 which undertook

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to amend the provision of §§ 24 and 256, Judicial Code, which saves to suitors in all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction "the right of a common law remedy where the common law is competent to give it" by adding the words "and to claimants the rights and remedies under the workmen's compensation law of any state." After declaring the true meaning and purpose of the act, we held it beyond the power of Congress.

[44 S.Ct. 304] Except as to the master and members of the crew, the Act of 1922 must be read as undertaking to permit application of the workmen's compensation laws of the several states to injuries within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction substantially as provided by the Act of 1917. The exception of master and crew is wholly insufficient to meet the objections to such enactments heretofore often pointed out. Manifestly, the proviso which denies jurisdiction to district courts of the United States over causes arising out of the injuries specified was intended to supplement the provision covering rights and remedies under state compensation laws. As that provision is ineffective, so is the proviso. To hold otherwise would bring about an unfortunate condition wholly outside the legislative intent.

Counsel insist that later conclusions of this Court have modified the doctrine of Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205, and Knickerbocker Ice Co. v. Stewart. They rely especially upon Western Fuel Co. v. Garcia, 257 U.S. 233, Grant Smith-Porter Co. v. Rohde, 257 U.S. 469, and Industrial Commission v. Nordenholt Co., 259 U.S. 263.

Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen involved a claim under the New York Compensation Act for death resulting from injuries sustained while the deceased was on board and engaged in unloading the vessel. We held (pp. 216-217):

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to define with exactness just how far the general maritime law may be changed, modified, or affected by state legislation. That

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this may be done to some extent cannot be denied. . . . Equally well established is the rule that state statutes may not contravene an applicable Act of Congress of affect the general maritime law beyond certain limits. . . . And plainly, we think, no such legislation is valid if it contravenes the essential purpose expressed by an Act of Congress or works material prejudice to the characteristic features of the general maritime law or interferes with the proper harmony and uniformity of that law in its international and interstate relations. This limitation, at the least, is essential to the effective operation of the fundamental purposes for which such law was incorporated into our national laws by the Constitution itself. . . . The work of a stevedore in which the deceased was engaging is maritime in its nature; his employment was a maritime contract; the injuries which he received were likewise maritime, and the rights and liabilities of the parties in connection therewith were matters clearly within the admiralty jurisdiction. Atlantic Transport Co. v. Imbrovek, 234 U.S. 52, 59-60. If New York can subject foreign ships coming into her ports to such obligations as those imposed by her compensation statute, other states may do likewise. The necessary consequence would be destruction of the very uniformity in respect to maritime matters which the Constitution was designed to establish, and freedom of navigation between the states and with foreign countries would be seriously hampered and impeded. A far more serious injury would result to commerce than could have been inflicted by the Washington statute authorizing a materialman's lien condemned in The Roanoke [189 U.S. 185]. The legislature exceeded its authority in attempting to extend the statute under consideration to conditions like those here disclosed.

In Knickerbocker Ice Co. v. Stewart (pp. 163-166), where claim was made under the New York act on account of the death of a bargeman who fell into the Hudson River and drowned, this was said:

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We conclude that [by the Act of October 6, 1917,] Congress undertook to permit application of workmen's compensation laws of the several states to injuries within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and to save such statutes from the objections pointed out by Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen. It sought to authorize and sanction action by the states in prescribing and enforcing, as to all parties concerned, rights, obligations, liabilities, and remedies designed to provide compensation for injuries suffered by employees engaged in maritime work.

And, so construed, we think the enactment is beyond the power of Congress. Its power to legislate concerning rights and liabilities within the maritime jurisdiction and remedies for their enforcement arises from the Constitution, as above indicated. The definite object of the grant was to commit direct control to the federal government, to relieve maritime commerce from unnecessary burdens and disadvantages incident to discordant legislation, and to establish, so far as practicable, harmonious and uniform rules applicable throughout every part of the Union.

Considering the fundamental purpose in view and the definite end for which such rules were accepted, we must conclude that, in their characteristic features and essential international and interstate relations, the latter may not be repealed, amended, or changed except by legislation which embodies both the will and deliberate judgment of Congress. The subject was entrusted to it to be dealt with according to its discretion, not for delegation to others. To say that, because Congress could have enacted a compensation act applicable to maritime injuries, it could authorize the states to do so as they might desire is false reasoning. Moreover, such an authorization would inevitably destroy the harmony...

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