342 U.S. 282 (1951), Halcyon Lines v. Haen Ship. & Refitting Corp.

Citation:342 U.S. 282, 72 S.Ct. 277, 96 L.Ed. 318
Party Name:Halcyon Lines v. Haen Ship. & Refitting Corp.
Case Date:January 14, 1952
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 282

342 U.S. 282 (1951)

72 S.Ct. 277, 96 L.Ed. 318

Halcyon Lines


Haen Ship. & Refitting Corp.

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 14, 1952




An employee of a shoreside contractor engaged by a shipowner to repair a ship moored in navigable waters was injured aboard the ship while engaged in making repairs. His injuries did not result from a collision. Alleging that they were caused by the shipowner's negligence and the unseaworthiness of the ship, he sued the shipowner for damages. Claiming that the contractor's negligence had contributed to the injuries, the shipowner brought in the contractor as a third-party defendant and urged that it be required to make contribution.

Held: The contribution proceedings against the contractor should be dismissed. Pp. 283-287.

(a) There is no established right to contribution between joint tortfeasors in such non-collision maritime injury cases. P. 284.

(b) Since Congress has enacted much legislation in the field of maritime injuries and has not approved such a rule of contribution between joint tortfeasors, it would be inappropriate for this Court to do so. Pp. 285-287.

187 F.2d 403, reversed and remanded.

The case is stated in the opinion. Reversed and remanded, p. 287.

Page 283

BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Halcyon Lines1 hired the Haenn Ship Ceiling and Refitting Corporation2 to make repairs on Halcyon's ship, which was moored in navigable waters. Salvador Baccile, an employee of Haenn, was injured aboard ship while engaged in making these repairs. Alleging that his injuries were caused by Halcyon's negligence and the unseaworthiness of its vessel, he brought this action for damages against Halcyon in the United States District Court. On the ground that Haenn's negligence had contributed to the injuries, Halcyon [72 S.Ct. 279] brought Haenn in as a third-party defendant. By agreement of all parties, a $65,000 judgment was rendered for Baccile and paid by Halcyon. Despite Haenn's protest, the district judge allowed the introduction of evidence tending to show the relative degree of fault of the two parties. On this evidence, the jury returned a special verdict finding Haenn 75% and Halcyon 25% responsible. The district judge refused to follow this jury determination, and entered judgment in accordance with his conclusion that there was a general rule governing maritime torts such as this under which each joint tortfeasor must pay half the damages. Baccile v. Halcyon Lines, 89 F.Supp. 765. The Court of Appeals agreed that a right of contribution existed in this case, but held that it could not exceed the amount Haenn would have been compelled to pay Baccile had he elected to claim compensation under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 44 Stat. 1424, 33 U.S.C. § 901 et seq. 187 F.2d 403. We granted certiorari because of the conflicting views taken by the circuits as to

Page 284

the existence of and the extent to which contribution can be obtained in cases such as this.3 342 U.S. 809.

Where two vessels collide due to the fault of both, it is established admiralty doctrine that the mutual wrongdoers shall share equally the damages sustained by each, as well as personal injury and property damage inflicted on innocent third parties. This maritime rule is of ancient...

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