280 U.S. 320 (2027), Johnson v. U.S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation

Citation:280 U.S. 320, 50 S.Ct. 118, 74 L.Ed. 451
Party Name:Johnson v. U.S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation *
Case Date:January 06, 1930
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 320

280 U.S. 320 (2027)

50 S.Ct. 118, 74 L.Ed. 451

Johnson

v.

U.S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation *

United States Supreme Court

January 6, 1930

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. The Suits in Admiralty Act provides the exclusive remedy against the United States or the Fleet Corporation for maritime causes of action arising out of the possession and operation of merchant vessels, and precludes suits against the United States under the Tucker Act and actions at law in state or federal courts against the Fleet Corporation or other agents for the enforcement of such causes of action. P. 325.

2. The following-described proceedings were therefore without jurisdiction:

(1) An action at law begun in a state court by an individual against the Fleet Corporation to recover for injuries received by the plaintiff when, in returning to the shore from a vessel on which he was seeking employment as a seaman and which was owned by the United States and operated for it by the defendant, he fell from the gangplank and was injured. P. 322.

Page 321

(2) An action in the district court against the Fleet Corporation and an operating agent, by a seaman, to recover damages for injuries sustained by him while serving on a merchant vessel owned by the United States, the complaint alleging (a) negligent failure to provide a safe place in which to work and (b) wrongful refusal after the injury to provide medical treatment and rest. Id.

(3) A suit in the district court against the United States, under the Tucker Act, for breach of contracts evidenced by bills of lading issued by the master of a vessel owned by the United States and operated through the Shipping Board and an agent, the breach consisting in failure to deliver goods, which were lost or damaged on the voyage. P. 323.

(4) Actions against the Fleet Corporation, begun in a state court, one by underwriters, the other by cargo owners, to recover for loss and damage of cargo caused by negligence of the defendant, the cargo having been shipped on a merchant vessel owned by the United States and operated by the defendant. P. 324.

24 F.2d 963; 28 id. 1014; 30 id. 254, reversed.

30 F.2d 946, affirmed.

These cases are separately and succinctly stated in the opinion.

Page 322

BUTLER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

No. 5

August 1, 1920, petitioner was an unemployed seaman. The steamship Jacksonville, then lying in the port of Jacksonville, Florida, was a merchant vessel owned by the United States and operated for it by the Fleet Corporation. On that day, petitioner went aboard to seek employment, and, when returning to the shore, fell from the gangplank and suffered serious injuries. This is an action at law, brought by him in April, 1923, against the Fleet Corporation in the Supreme Court of New York to recover damages for such injuries. The complaint alleges that, due to the negligence of the defendant's officers and employees, the gangplank was insecure, and that plaintiff's injuries [50 S.Ct. 119] were caused thereby. The defendant removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Its answer denies the negligence charged in the complaint and alleges that plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence; that, whatever his rights, plaintiff's remedy is provided exclusively by the Suits in Admiralty Act, approved March 9, 1920, 41 Stat. 525, and that his claim is barred because, as appears by the complaint, the action was not commenced within the two years prescribed by that Act. The district court submitted the case to a jury, and charged that, if guilty of contributory negligence, plaintiff could not recover. There was a verdict for defendant, and the judgment thereon was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals. 24 F.2d 963.

No. 32

March 6, 1926, the steamship Coelleda was a merchant vessel owned by the United States and operated for it by the Navigation Company as agent, pursuant to an

Page 323

agreement made by the United States, acting through the Shipping Board represented by the Fleet Corporation. Merchant Marine Act 1920, §§ 12, 35, 41 Stat. 993, 1007. Respondent was a seaman employed thereon. This is an action at law, brought by him in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, against the Fleet Corporation and the Navigation Company, to recover damages for injuries alleged to have been sustained by him while in that service. The complaint alleges two causes of action: (1) that, due to the negligent failure of defendants to furnish him a safe place in which to work, plaintiff was severely injured, and (2) that, being injured and in need of medical treatment and rent, he was refused such treatment by the master and officers of the ship, and was compelled to continue to work. The answer of each defendant denies the negligence and wrongful acts charged in the complaint, and alleges that, whatever his rights, plaintiff's remedy is provided exclusively by the Suits in Admiralty Act, and that therefore this action cannot be maintained. The trial court dismissed the first cause of action, and, after denying defendants' motion that a verdict in their favor be directed, submitted the...

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