350 U.S. 124 (1956), 4, Ryan Stevedoring Co., Inc. v. Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corp.

Docket Nº:No. 4
Citation:350 U.S. 124, 76 S.Ct. 232, 100 L.Ed. 133
Party Name:Ryan Stevedoring Co., Inc. v. Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corp.
Case Date:January 09, 1956
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 124

350 U.S. 124 (1956)

76 S.Ct. 232, 100 L.Ed. 133

Ryan Stevedoring Co., Inc.

v.

Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corp.

No. 4

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 9, 1956

Argued March 3-4, 1955

Affirmed by an equally divided Court, April 11,1955

Rehearing granted, May 16,1955

Reargued October 11-12, 1955

ON REHEARING

Syllabus

Without signing a formal stevedoring contract or an express indemnity agreement, a stevedoring contractor agreed to perform all stevedoring operations required by a shipowner in the latter's coastwise service. Under this agreement, the contractor loaded a ship at Georgetown, S.C., with a mixed cargo, including rolls of pulpboard, and unloaded it in navigable water at a pier in Brooklyn, N.Y. During the unloading, a longshoreman employed by the contractor was injured by a roll of pulpboard which had been insufficiently secured when stored by the contractor in Georgetown. Under the Longshoremen's Act, the contractor's insurance carrier paid the longshoreman compensation and furnished him medical services, without any formal award by the Deputy Commissioner. Claiming that, because of unsafe stowage of the cargo, the ship was unseaworthy and that the shipowner had neglected to furnish him with a safe place to work, the longshoreman sued the shipowner and obtained a judgment for a much larger sum, from which the contractor's insurance carrier was to be reimbursed for the amount it had advanced to the longshoreman.

Held: on the shipowner's third-party complaint against the contractor, the shipowner was entitled to reimbursement from the contractor for the amount of the judgment against the shipowner. Pp. 125-135.

1. Section 5 of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, which provides that the liability of an employer prescribed in § 4 "shall be exclusive and in place of all other liability of such employer to the employee," does not preclude assertion by the shipowner of the contractor's contractual liability to it, though the contractor was also the employer of the injured longshoreman. Pp. 128-132.

2. Even in the absence of an express agreement of indemnity, the contractor was obligated to reimburse the shipowner for damages caused it by the contractor's breach of its contract to stow the cargo properly and safely. Pp. 132-134.

3. Halcyon Lines v. Haenn Ship Corp., 342 U.S. 282, distinguished. P. 133.

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4. That the shipowner had an obligation to supervise the stowage and had a right to reject unsafe stowage and did not do so does not bar the shipowner's right to recover from the contractor any damage caused by the contractor's failure to stow the rolls safely. Pp. 134-135.

211 F.2d 277 affirmed.

BURTON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents two questions as to the liability of a stevedoring contractor to reimburse a shipowner for damages paid by the latter to one of the contractor's longshoremen on account of injuries received by him in the course of his employment on shipboard. 1. The first question is whether the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act1 precludes a shipowner from asserting such a liability. 2. The second is whether the liability exists where a contractor, without entering into an express agreement of indemnity, contracts to perform a shipowner's stevedoring operations and the longshoreman's injuries are caused by the contractor's unsafe stowage of the ship's cargo. For the reasons hereafter stated, we answer the first question in the negative and the second in the affirmative.

In 1949, respondent, Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation, a Delaware corporation, operated the SS. Canton

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Victory in the American coastwise trade under a bareboat charter. As evidenced by letters, but without a formal stevedoring contract or an express indemnity agreement, respondent secured, for that year, the agreement of petitioner, Ryan Stevedoring Co., inc., an Alabama corporation, to perform all stevedoring operations required by respondent in its coastwise service. Pursuant to that contract, petitioner loaded the Canton Victory at Georgetown, South Carolina, with mixed cargo. This included pulpboard, such as is used in making corrugated paper and paper bags, shipped in rolls 4 feet wide and 3 to 5 feet long. Petitioner stowed some of these rolls side-by-side on the floor of Hatch No. 3 and "nested" others above them by placing the upper rolls in the troughs between the lower ones. To immobilize the rolls, it was necessary to secure or "chock" the bottom tier with wedges or with miscellaneous pieces of wood known as "dunnage." There is little evidence as to what took place when the rolls were stowed at Georgetown, but it was the uniform practice of petitioner's longshoremen to stow such cargo under the immediate direction of their hatch foreman, while respondent's cargo officers supervised the loading of the entire ship and had authority to reject unsafe stowage.

A few days later, on July 20, 1949, in navigable water at a pier in Brooklyn, New York, petitioner engaged in unloading these rolls. While one of petitioner's Brooklyn longshoremen, Frank Palazzolo, was working in Hatch No. 3, one roll, weighing about 3,200 pounds, broke loose from the others, struck him violently, and severely injured his left leg. There is no evidence that he was negligent. On the other hand, it appears that the rolls in Hatch No. 3 had been insufficiently secured when stowed [76 S.Ct. 234] by petitioner in Georgetown. This is established by the absence of proper wedges and dunnage holding the rolls in place at the time of the accident.

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Petitioner's insurance carrier under the Longshoremen's Act paid Palazzolo $2,940 compensation and furnished him medical services costing $9,857.36, all without any formal award by the Deputy Commissioner. As permitted by § 33 of that Act, Palazzolo sued the respondent shipowner in the Supreme Court of New York.2 He claimed that the unsafe stowage of the cargo, which caused his injuries, established either the unseaworthiness of the ship or the shipowner's negligence in failing to furnish him with a safe place to work, or both. The shipowner removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York and filed a third-party complaint against petitioner. By stipulation, Palazzolo's case against the shipowner was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in his favor for $75,000.

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The District Court entered judgment on the jury verdict. From the above sum, petitioner's insurance carrier was to be reimbursed for the $12,797.36 it had advanced because of Palazzolo's injuries.

Also by stipulation, the shipowner's third-party complaint was submitted on the same record to the judge who had presided over Palazzolo's case. He dismissed the complaint. 111 F.Supp. 505. The Court of Appeals affirmed Palazzolo's judgment, but reversed the dismissal of the third-party complaint and directed that judgment be entered for the shipowner. 211 F.2d 277. Petitioner, the stevedoring contractor, contends that the order reversing the dismissal of the impleader suit is erroneous. Because of the wide application of the case and the conflicting views that have been expressed on the issues, we granted certiorari. 349 U.S. 813. The United States filed a brief as amicus curiae in support of the shipowner and took part in the oral argument. 348 U.S. 948. The judgment was affirmed by an equally divided Court, 349 U.S. 901, but the case was restored to the docket for reargument before a full Court, 349 U.S. 926.

1. The first question is whether the Longshoremen's Compensation Act precludes the assertion by a shipowner of a stevedoring contractor's liability to it, where the contractor is also the employer of the injured longshoreman.

Neither court below discussed this question, although petitioner presented [76 S.Ct. 235] it to them. Petitioner's argument is based upon the following provision in the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act:

SEC. 5. The liability of an employer prescribed in section 4 [for compensation] shall be exclusive and in place of all other liability of such employer to the employee, his legal representative, husband or wife,

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parents, dependents, next of kin, and anyone otherwise entitled to recover damages from such employer at law or in admiralty on account of such injury or death, except that if an employer fails to secure payment of compensation as required by this Act, an injured employee, or his legal representative in case death results from the injury, may elect to claim compensation under this Act, or to maintain an action at law or in admiralty for damages on account of such injury or death. . . .

(Emphasis supplied.) 44 Stat. 1426, 33 U.S.C. § 905.

The obvious purpose of this provision is to make the statutory liability of an employer to contribute to its employee's compensation the exclusive liability of such employer to its employee, or to anyone claiming under or through such employee, on account of his injury or death arising out of that employment. In return, the employee, and those claiming under or through him, are given a substantial quid pro quo in the form of an assured compensation, regardless of fault, as a substitute for their excluded claims. On the other hand, the Act prescribes no quid pro quo for a shipowner that is compelled to pay a judgment obtained against it for the full amount of a longshoreman's damages.3

Section 5 of the Act expressly excludes the liability of the employer "to the employee," or others, entitled to recover "on account of such [employee's] injury or death." Therefore, in the instant case, it excludes the

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liability of the...

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