376 U.S. 315 (1964), 82, Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione v. Oregon Stevedoring Co., Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 82
Citation:376 U.S. 315, 84 S.Ct. 748, 11 L.Ed.2d 732
Party Name:Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione v. Oregon Stevedoring Co., Inc.
Case Date:March 09, 1964
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 315

376 U.S. 315 (1964)

84 S.Ct. 748, 11 L.Ed.2d 732

Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione

v.

Oregon Stevedoring Co., Inc.

No. 82

United States Supreme Court

March 9, 1964

Argued January 8, 1964

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. Shipowner may recover indemnity from a stevedore for breach of implied warranty of workmanlike service where the stevedore, without negligence, has supplied defective equipment which injures its own employee who has recovered a judgment against the shipowner on the basis of unseaworthiness. Pp. 315-325.

2. The effect of a contract provision making stevedore responsible for injuries caused by its negligence on the existence of the implied warranty, not briefed or argued here, is to be determined by the Court of Appeals on remand. P. 325.

310 F.2d 481 reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an action by a shipowner, Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione (Italia), against a contracting stevedore company, Oregon Stevedoring Company (Oregon), to recover indemnity for breach of the stevedore's implied warranty of workmanlike service. The issue presented is whether the warranty is breached where the

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stevedore has non-negligently supplied defective equipment which injures one of its employees during the course of stevedoring operations.

I

The petitioner, Italia, is the owner of the vessel M. S. Antonio Pacinotti. The respondent, Oregon, agreed to render stevedoring services for Italia in all ports along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Under the contract between the companies, Oregon was to have exclusive rights to and control over the loading and discharge of cargoes aboard Italia's vessels,1 and was to

furnish all necessary labor and supervision and all ordinary gear for the performance of [these] services . . . , including winch drivers and usual appliances used for stevedoring.

Italia was to furnish and maintain in safe and efficient working condition suitable booms, winches, blocks, steam, lights and so forth. The agreement provided that the stevedoring company [84 S.Ct. 750] would be responsible for damage to the ship, cargo, and for injury or death of any person caused by its negligence, and that the steamship company would be responsible for the injury or death of any person or damage to property arising from its negligence or by reason of failure of the ship's gear and equipment.2

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During the course of Oregon's stevedoring operations in Portland, one of its longshoreman employees, Griffith, was injured on the M. S. Antonio Pacinotti when a tent rope snapped. The rope, permanently attached to a hatch tent used to protect cargo from rain, was furnished by Oregon pursuant to its obligation to supply ordinary gear necessary for the performance of stevedoring services. The injured longshoreman sued the shipowner in a state court for negligence and unseaworthiness,3 and recovered a judgment against Italia upon a general verdict. Italia satisfied the judgment and thereupon brought this suit in a Federal District Court for indemnity from Oregon. The District Court found that the basis for Griffith's recovery was not negligence on the part of the shipowner, but a condition of unseaworthiness created by the rope supplied by Oregon, which was found defective and unfit for its intended use. However, the District Court disallowed indemnity because Italia had

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failed to prove negligence on the part of the stevedore company, since the defective condition of the rope was not apparent. That court viewed the contractual provision rendering Oregon liable for injuries caused by its negligence as an express disclaimer against an implied warranty of workmanlike service. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, with one judge dissenting, affirmed, but solely on the ground that a stevedore's implied warranty of workmanlike service is not breached in the absence of a showing of negligence in supplying defective equipment. 310 F.2d 481. Because of a conflict between this decision and the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Booth S.S. Co. v. Meier & Oelhaf Co., 262 F.2d 310, and the importance of the question involved, we granted certiorari. 372 U.S. 963. For the reasons stated below, we have determined that the absence of negligence on the part of a stevedore who furnishes defective equipment is not fatal to the shipowner's claim of indemnity based on the stevedore's implied warranty of workmanlike service.

In Ryan Stevedoring Co. v. Pan-Atlantic S.S. Corp., 350 U.S. 124, the landmark decision in this area, it was established that [84 S.Ct. 751] a stevedoring contractor who enters into a service agreement with a shipowner is liable to indemnify the owner for damages sustained as a result of the stevedore's improper stowage of cargo. Although the agreement between the shipowner and stevedore was silent on the subject of warranties and standards of performance, the Court found that the essence of the stevedore's contract is to perform "properly and safely." "Competency and safety . . . are inescapable elements of the service undertaken." This undertaking is the stevedore's "warranty of workmanlike service that is comparable to a manufacturer's warranty of the soundness of its manufactured product," 350 U.S. at 133-134, a warranty generally deemed to cover defects not attributable to a manufacturer's

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negligence.4 See also Crumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser, 358 U.S. 423, 428-429.

The Court further distinguished in Ryan between contract and tort actions, stating that the shipowner's suit for indemnification was not changed

from one for a breach of contract to one for a tort simply because recovery may turn upon the standard of the performance of petitioner's stevedoring service,

350 U.S. at 134, and pointedly declined to characterize the stevedore's conduct as negligent, notwithstanding that discussion in the opinion below centered on concepts of active and passive negligence on the part of the shipowner and stevedore.5 Although, in Ryan, the stevedore was negligent, he was not found liable for negligence as such, but because he failed to perform safely, a basis for liability including negligent and nonnegligent conduct alike.

Subsequent decisions have made clear that the stevedore's obligation to perform with reasonable safety extends not only to the stowage and handling of cargo,

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but also to the use of equipment incidental thereto, Weyerhaeuser S.S. Co. v. Nacirema Operating Co., 355 U.S. 563; including defective equipment supplied by the shipowner, Crumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser, supra; cf. Waterman S.S. Corp. v. Dugan & McNamara, Inc., 364 U.S. 421, and that the shipowner's negligence is not fatal to recovery against the stevedore.

[I]n the area of contractual indemnity, an application of the theories of "active" or "passive" as well as "primary" or "secondary" negligence is inappropriate.

Weyerhaeuser, supra, 355 U.S. at 569. And last Term, in Reed v. The Yaka, 373 U.S. 410, we assumed, without deciding, that a shipowner could recover over from a stevedore for breach of warranty [84 S.Ct. 752] even though the injury-causing defect was latent, and the stevedore without fault. We think that the stevedore's implied warranty of workmanlike performance applied in these cases is sufficiently broad to include the respondent's failure to furnish safe equipment pursuant to its contract with the shipowner, notwithstanding that the stevedore would not be liable in tort for its conduct.6

Oregon argues, however, that the imposition in Ryan of liability on the stevedore in warranty, rather than tort, was necessitated by the Court's previous decision in Halcyon Lines v. Haenn Ship Ceiling & Refitting Corp., 342 U.S. 282, which held that maritime principles of contribution between joint tortfeasors prevailing in collision cases were not applicable in suits for contribution by a shipowner against stevedore companies. It further

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urges that negligence on the part of the stevedore company or its employees was present in all the above cases, and that the Court characterized the warranty in post-Ryan decisions as one entailing an obligation to perform with reasonable safety and reasonable competency. However, the stevedore's obligation established in Ryan was not merely an escape from the no-recovery consequences of Halcyon, as is evidenced by the fact that recovery of contribution between joint tortfeasors and recovery of indemnity for breach of warranty proceed on two wholly distinct theories and produce disparate results.7 See American Stevedores, Inc. v. Porello, 330 U.S. 446. Recovery in contribution is imposed by law and is measured by the relative fault of the joint tortfeasors or shared equally between them, The North Star, 106 U.S. 17; The Max Morris, 137 U.S. 1; Halcyon Lines v. Haenn Ship Ceiling & Refitting Corp., supra; while recovery in indemnity for breach of the stevedore's warranty is based upon an agreement between the shipowner and stevedore, and is not necessarily affected or defeated by the shipowner's negligence, whether active or passive, primary or secondary. Weyerhaeuser S.S. Co. v. Nacirema Operating Co., supra. And the description of the stevedore's obligation as one of performance with reasonable safety is not a reference to the "reasonable man" test pertaining to negligence, but a delineation of the scope of the stevedore's implied contractual duties. The implied warranty to supply reasonably safe equipment may be satisfied with less than absolutely perfect equipment;8 however, the

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issue of breach of the undertaking does not turn on whether the contractor knew or should have known that his equipment was safe, but on whether the equipment was in fact safe and fit for its intended use. As...

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