358 U.S. 423 (1959), 61, Crumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser

Docket NºNo. 61
Citation358 U.S. 423, 79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413
Party NameCrumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser
Case DateFebruary 24, 1959
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 423

358 U.S. 423 (1959)

79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413

Crumady

v.

The Joachim Hendrik Fisser

No. 61

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 24, 1959

Argued January 12-13, 1959

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner was injured while working for a stevedoring company engaged in unloading a ship in an American port under contract with a third party to whom the ship had been chartered. Petitioner brought this admiralty suit by libel in rem against the ship, which impleaded the stevedoring company. The District Court found that the ship was unseaworthy, and therefore liable to petitioner, but it also found that the primary cause of the accident was negligence of the stevedoring company which brought into play the unseaworthy condition of the ship, and it directed the stevedoring company to indemnify the ship for the damages to petitioner.

Held: the judgment of the District Court is sustained. Pp. 424-429.

1. The District Court correctly applied the concept of unseaworthiness, and its findings of fact were not clearly erroneous. Pp. 426-428.

2. Since the negligence of the stevedoring company which brought the unseaworthiness of the ship into play amounted to a breach of the warranty of workmanlike service, and that warranty was for the benefit of the ship, the ship is entitled to indemnity from the stevedoring company. Pp. 428-429.

249 F.2d 818 reversed, and judgment of the District Court reinstated.

Page 424

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, Crumady, was an employee of a stevedoring company engaged in transferring a cargo of lumber from the ship Joachim Hendrik Fisser, of German registry, to a pier at Newark, New Jersey. While so engaged, he was injured, and brought this admiralty suit by libel in rem against the vessel. The vessel impleaded the stevedoring contractor.

When the accident happened, the stevedores were trying to lift two timbers through a hatch. The manner of the accident was described as follows by the District Court:

. . . libellant and his fellow employees had placed a double-eyed wire rope sling, provided with a sliding hook movable between the eyes thereof, around the two timbers at a location two or three feet from their after ends. The two eyes of the sling were then placed upon the cargo hook of the up-and-down boom runner, and a signal given by the stevedore gangwayman to the winchman to "take up the slack." The winchman complied with the signal, and, during this operation, libellant stood clear upon other timbers forming a part of the cargo, within the open square of the hatch. There was some testimony that, when the slack was taken up by the winchman, the two timbers slid toward each other in the sling, the timber

Page 425

which had been under the lower edge of the hatch coaming moving or commencing to move toward the timber which lay within the open hatch square. After the slack had been taken up by the winchman, the same signaler called for the "taking of a strain" upon the cargo runner. The winchman again responded, the two-part topping-lift broke, and the head of the up-and-down boom, with its attached cargo and topping-lift blocks, fell to the top of the cargo within the hatch square.

The topping-lift had been rigged in a double purchase, and had been supporting the head of the boom. The wire rope constituting the topping-lift extended from a shackle on the topping-lift block at the cross-tree of the mast, through a block at the boom head, back through the mast block, down the mast, through a block welded to the mast table, and thence around a drum of the winch. When the boom fell, libellant was knocked down, either by the boom itself or its appurtenant tackle, and thus sustained numerous serious and permanently disabling orthopedic and neurological injuries.

142 F.Supp. 389, 391.

The safe working load of the boom and cargo runner and topping-lift handling the load at the time of the accident was three tons each. This equipment, which was part of the unloading and loading gear of the vessel, was in good condition. The winch, which served the boom, had a "cut off" device, [79 S.Ct. 447] or circuit breaker. It was set to shut off the current on the application of a load of about six tons, which was twice the safe working load of the unloading gear. The circuit breaker operated perfectly, cutting off current at the point of stress for which it was set. It had been set to operate at a load slightly more than twice

Page 426

the safe working load of the unloading gear * by employees of the ship before the winch was turned over to petitioner's fellow employees for operation.

The District Court accordingly found the vessel unseaworthy, and therefore liable to petitioner. It also found that the stevedores moved the head of the boom in an effort to clear the cargo from the sides of the hatch, and that this "created a load on the topping-lift greatly in excess of its safe working load." This act was found to be "the primary cause of the parting of the topping-lift and consequent fall of the boom." Since the stevedoring company was found to be negligent in bringing "into play the unseaworthy condition of the vessel," the District Court directed the stevedoring company to indemnify the vessel for the damages to petitioner. 142 F.Supp. 389, 401. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the vessel was not unseaworthy, and that the sole cause of the injury was the negligence of the stevedores. 249 F.2d 818. A petition for rehearing was denied en banc, Judge Biggs dissenting. 249 F.2d 821. The cases are here on petitions for certiorari. 357 U.S. 903.

1. We held in Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki, 328 U.S. 85, 95, that stevedores, though intermediately employed, are, when performing "the ship's service," entitled to the same protection against unseaworthiness which members

Page 427

of the crew doing the same work would receive. And see Pope & Talbot v. Hawn, 346 U.S. 406. The work of loading and unloading is historically "the work of the ship's service." Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki, supra, at 96.

This protection against unseaworthiness imposes a duty which the owner of the vessel cannot delegate. Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki, supra, at 100. Unseaworthiness extends not only to the vessel, but to the crew (Boudoin v. Lykes Bros. Steamship Co., 348 U.S. 336) and to appliances that are appurtenant to the ship. Mahnich v. Southern S.S. Co., 321 U.S. 96. And, as to appliances, the duty of the shipowner does not end with supplying them -- he must keep them in order. Id. at 104; The Osceola, 189 U.S. 158, 175. The shipowner is not relieved of these responsibilities by turning control of the loading or unloading of the ship over to a stevedoring company. It was held in Grillea v. United States, 232 F.2d 919, that stevedores themselves could render a ship pro tanto unseaworthy and make the vessel owner [79 S.Ct. 448] liable for injuries to one of them. And see Rogers v. United States Lines, 347 U.S. 984; Alaska S.S. Co. v. Petterson, 347 U.S. 396. We need not go so far to sustain the District Court here. For there is ample evidence to support the finding that these stevedores did no more than bring into play the unseaworthy condition of the vessel. The winch -- an appurtenance of the vessel -- was not inherently defective, as was the rope in the Mahnich case. But it was adjusted by those acting for the vessel owner in a way that made it unsafe and dangerous for the work at hand. While the rigging would take only three tons of stress, the cutoff of the winch -- its safety device -- was set at twice that limit. This...

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397 practice notes
  • 200 F.Supp. 264 (E.D.Ark. 1961), LR 61 c 17, Fidelity & Cas. Co. of New York v. J. A. Jones Const. Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit Eastern District of Arkansas
    • 22 novembre 1961
    ...law that recognizes rights in third-party beneficiaries. Restatement, Law of Contracts, § 133.' Crumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser, 358 U.S. 423, 428, 79 S.Ct. 445, 448, 3 L.Ed.2d 413 Whether plaintiffs' right to indemnity be said to rest upon the commission of a tort by defendant agains......
  • 225 F.Supp. 947 (S.D.N.Y. 1964), Simpson v. Royal Rotterdam Lloyd
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • 17 janvier 1964
    ...by the shipowner for reimbursement of any recovery against it by an employee of the stevedore. In Crumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser, 358 U.S. 423, 79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413 (1959) , Page 952 this doctrine was extended to allow recovery by a shipowner against a stevedore for injury to ......
  • 271 F.Supp. 529 (D.Md. 1967), Adm. 4543, Tebbs v. Baker-Whiteley Towing Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit District of Maryland
    • 6 juillet 1967
    ...has been the basis for many recent cases brought by vessel owners against stevedoring companies. See, e.g., Crumady v. The J. H. Fisser, 358 U.S. 423, 79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413 (1959), Weyerhaeuser S.S. Co. v. Nacirema Co., 355 U.S. 563, 78 S.Ct. 438, 2 L.Ed.2d 491 (1958). United States L......
  • 281 F.Supp. 90 (E.D.La. 1968), 7964, McDonough Const. Co. v. H. B. Fowler & Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Eastern District of Louisiana
    • 5 mars 1968
    ...owner of the barge whether there is privity between the owner and the party warranting the work or not. Crumady v. The J. H. Fisser, 1959, 358 U.S. 423, 79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413; Waterman S.S. Corp. v. Dugan & McNamara, Inc., 1960, 364 U.S. 421, 81 S.Ct. 200, 5 L.Ed.2d 169 Page 95 DA......
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397 cases
  • 200 F.Supp. 264 (E.D.Ark. 1961), LR 61 c 17, Fidelity & Cas. Co. of New York v. J. A. Jones Const. Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit United States State District Court of Eastern District of Arkansas
    • 22 novembre 1961
    ...law that recognizes rights in third-party beneficiaries. Restatement, Law of Contracts, § 133.' Crumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser, 358 U.S. 423, 428, 79 S.Ct. 445, 448, 3 L.Ed.2d 413 Whether plaintiffs' right to indemnity be said to rest upon the commission of a tort by defendant agains......
  • 225 F.Supp. 947 (S.D.N.Y. 1964), Simpson v. Royal Rotterdam Lloyd
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 17 janvier 1964
    ...by the shipowner for reimbursement of any recovery against it by an employee of the stevedore. In Crumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser, 358 U.S. 423, 79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413 (1959) , Page 952 this doctrine was extended to allow recovery by a shipowner against a stevedore for injury to ......
  • 271 F.Supp. 529 (D.Md. 1967), Adm. 4543, Tebbs v. Baker-Whiteley Towing Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit United States District Court (Maryland)
    • 6 juillet 1967
    ...has been the basis for many recent cases brought by vessel owners against stevedoring companies. See, e.g., Crumady v. The J. H. Fisser, 358 U.S. 423, 79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413 (1959), Weyerhaeuser S.S. Co. v. Nacirema Co., 355 U.S. 563, 78 S.Ct. 438, 2 L.Ed.2d 491 (1958). United States L......
  • 281 F.Supp. 90 (E.D.La. 1968), 7964, McDonough Const. Co. v. H. B. Fowler & Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • 5 mars 1968
    ...owner of the barge whether there is privity between the owner and the party warranting the work or not. Crumady v. The J. H. Fisser, 1959, 358 U.S. 423, 79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413; Waterman S.S. Corp. v. Dugan & McNamara, Inc., 1960, 364 U.S. 421, 81 S.Ct. 200, 5 L.Ed.2d 169 Page 95 DA......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The Settlewent of Army Maritime Claims
    • United States
    • Military Law Review Nbr. 34, October 1966
    • 1 octobre 1966
    ...the pro~isions of the Public Vessels Act, could settle the whole clsim. 43 Stat. 1113 (19213, 46 U.S.C. 5 786 (19643. Hendriek Fisser, 358 U.S. 423 (1559); ltalia Smeta Y. Oregon Stevedoring Go., 376 U.S. 315 (1964). Cldma ngsunst third party tortfeasors for the reasonable value of medical ......