364 U.S. 421 (1960), 35, Waterman Steamship Corp. v. Dugan & McNamara, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 35
Citation:364 U.S. 421, 81 S.Ct. 200, 5 L.Ed.2d 169
Party Name:Waterman Steamship Corp. v. Dugan & McNamara, Inc.
Case Date:November 21, 1960
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 421

364 U.S. 421 (1960)

81 S.Ct. 200, 5 L.Ed.2d 169

Waterman Steamship Corp.


Dugan & McNamara, Inc.

No. 35

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 21, 1960

Argued October 20, 1960




A longshoreman employed by respondent, stevedoring contractor engaged by a consignee, sued a shipowner for personal injuries sustained aboard a ship while helping to unload its cargo. The shipowner settled the claim and sought to recover from respondent on the ground that the longshoreman's injuries resulted from respondent's failure to perform its work in a workmanlike manner.

Held: Respondent was liable to the shipowner, even though there was no privity of contract between respondent and the shipowner and regardless of whether the longshoreman's original claim was asserted in an in rem or an in personam proceeding, since respondent's warranty of workmanlike service aboard the ship was for the benefit of the ship and its owner as well as of respondent's employer. Crumady v. The J. H. Fisser, 358 U.S. 423. Pp. 421-425.

272 F.2d 823 reversed.

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner is the owner of the vessel S.S. Afoundria. The respondent is a stevedoring company. A longshoreman employed by the respondent [81 S.Ct. 201] was injured aboard the

Page 422

Afoundria while engaged with other employees of the respondent in unloading the ship at the port of Philadelphia. The cargo consisted of bagged sugar. The longshoreman was working in the hold, and his injuries resulted from the collapse of a vertical column of hundred-pound bags which the unloading operations had left without lateral support.

He sued the petitioner in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to recover for his injuries. The petitioner settled the claim and, by way of a third-party complaint, sought to recover from the respondent the amount paid in satisfaction of the longshoreman's claim. The third-party complaint alleged that improper stowage of the cargo1 had created an unseaworthy condition in the ship's hold which had imposed absolute liability upon the petitioner as shipowner for the longshoreman's injuries, but that "the direct, proximate, active and substantial cause of the accident" had been the negligence of the respondent, who, by "failing to perform the contracted stevedoring services in a safe, proper, customary, careful and workmanlike manner," had brought the existing unseaworthy condition into play.

As an affirmative defense, the respondent stevedore alleged that there had been no direct contractual relationship between it and the petitioner covering the stevedoring services rendered the Afoundria in Philadelphia. At the trial, the parties stipulated that this allegation was correct, it appearing that the consignee of the cargo, not the petitioner, had actually engaged the respondent to unload the ship. The District Court directed a verdict for the respondent, holding that a shipowner had no right of indemnity against a stevedore under the circumstances alleged in the absence of a direct contractual relationship

Page 423

between them. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed in an en banc decision, three judges dissenting.2 Certiorari was granted to consider whether, in a situation such as this, the absence of a contractual relationship between the parties is fatal to the indemnity claim. 362 U.S. 926.

In Ryan Stevedoring Co. v. Pan-Atlantic Corp., 350 U.S. 124, it was...

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