395 F.2d 737 (3rd Cir. 1968), 16901, Haskins v. Point Towing Co.

Docket Nº:16901.
Citation:395 F.2d 737
Party Name:Esker E. HASKINS, Appellant, v. POINT TOWING COMPANY and M/V H. E. BOWLES, a Motor Vessel, Her Boilers,Engines, Tackle Apparel and Furniture, and Bulk Towing, Inc., in a Cause of Contract and Damage, Civil and Maritime.
Case Date:May 16, 1968
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Page 737

395 F.2d 737 (3rd Cir. 1968)

Esker E. HASKINS, Appellant,


POINT TOWING COMPANY and M/V H. E. BOWLES, a Motor Vessel, Her Boilers,Engines, Tackle Apparel and Furniture, and Bulk Towing, Inc., in a Cause of Contract and Damage, Civil and Maritime.

No. 16901.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

May 16, 1968

         Argued Jan. 12, 1968.

Page 738

         Harry Alan Sherman, Pittsburgh, Pa., for appellant.

         Donald L. Very, Campbell, Thomas & Burke, Pittsburgh, Pa. (Charles E. Lugenbuhl, Lemle & Kelleher, New Orleans, La., on the brief) for respondent Point Towing Co.

         Before McLAUGHLIN, FREEDMAN and SEITZ, Circuit Judges.


         FREEDMAN, Circuit Judge.

         A confused pleading presents us with the problem whether plaintiff 1 was entitled to a trial by jury of his Jones Act 2 claim for negligence and his maritime claims for unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure. He was compelled to have all these claims tried by a judge without a jury and he brings this appeal from the decision of the district judge dismissing his action on the merits.

         Plaintiff brought the action by filing what he designated as a 'Libel in Admiralty, In Rem and In Personam * * * against Point Towing Co. and the M/V. H. E. Bowles, a motor vessel, her boilers, engines, tackle, apparel and furniture, and Bulk Towing, Inc., in a cause of contract and damage, civil and maritime. * * *' He demanded trial by

Page 739

jury. In his 'First Cause of Action' he alleged that he was an assistant engineer and member of the crew of the motor vessel H. E. Bowles and sought recovery for personal injuries 'as a seaman * * * pursuant to the general maritime law and the doctrine of seaworthiness. * * *' In the same cause of action he claimed 'pendent rights' under the Jones Act for negligence. In the 'Second Cause of Action' he sought recovery for maintenance and cure. He alleged damages in excess of $10,000 exclusive of interest and costs, in each cause of action. The pleading concluded with a prayer that process issue against the vessel in accordance with the practice in admiralty and maritime jurisdiction and in the alternative that attachment of property of the defendants be made 'as on foreign attachment, in personam.'

         The Clerk of the Court docketed the action in admiralty but placed in on the civil jury list. Process issued but was returned unexecuted and shortly thereafter counsel entered an appearance for Point Towing Co. and subsequently filed an answer to the libel. No appearance was entered for Bulk Towing Inc., which therefore dropped out of the case.

         After discovery proceedings Point Towing Co., which will be referred to as the defendant, filed a motion to remove the case from the jury list and to assign it to a nonjury list on the ground that there was no right to trial by jury because the action was in admiralty. The district court agreed and granted the motion. 3 It was also of the opinion that plaintiff had not shown venue at law under the Jones Act 4 because the defendant did not reside or have its principal office within the jurisdiction. It therefore gave plaintiff an election to seek a transfer to a jurisdiction where venue existed, to withdraw the action, or to proceed to trial by a judge without a jury. The court specified that the case would be treated as a nonjury case if plaintiff did not choose either of the first two alternatives within fifteen days. All this was prior to the effective date of the new merged civil and admiralty rules. Plaintiff made no such choice and the case proceeded to trial as a nonjury action.

         Ultimately the district court dismissed the action because defendant was not liable for any negligence or unseaworthiness which may have occasioned plaintiff's injury. It found that the vessel was being operated by Bulk Towing, Inc., the unserved defendant, under a 'bare boat charter' from defendant, that the landing where the vessel was tied was operated by another corporation and that defendant was not the plaintiff's employer. 5

         Analysis of the problem of the right to jury trial must begin in the light of the guidance established by the Supreme Court in Fitzgerald v. United States Lines Co., 374 U.S. 16, 83 S.Ct. 1646, 10 L.Ed.2d 720 (1963). There it was held error to refuse plaintiff a jury trial of his claim for maintenance and cure coincident with the jury trial of his claims under the Jones Act for negligence and under maritime law for unseaworthiness.

Page 740

6 The Court made no attempt to define precisely how plaintiff had labeled his claims, whether in admiralty or at law, although the opinion of the Court of Appeals 7 indicates that jurisdiction at law was asserted for the claim under the Jones Act with the unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure claims joined as pendent to it on the law side, under the doctrine of Romero v. International Terminal Operating Co., 358 U.S. 354, 380, 79 S.Ct. 468, 3 L.Ed.2d 368 (1959). 8 The Court based its decision on the fundamental factors of simplicity, utility to litigants and the interest of justice in having one tribunal decide the three claims which in general arise from a unitary set of circumstances. Mr. Justice Black said: 'Although remedies for negligence, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure have different origins and may on occasion call for application of slightly different principles and procedures, they nevertheless, when based on one unitary set of circumstances, serve the same purpose of indemnifying a seaman for damages caused by injury, depend in large part upon the same evidence, and involve some identical elements of recovery. Requiring a seaman to split up his lawsuit, submitting part of it to a jury and part to a judge, unduly complicates and confuses a trial, creates difficulties in applying doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, and can easily result in too much or too little recovery.' 9 Because of these considerations Mr. Justice Black concluded: 'Only one trier of fact should be used for the trial of what is essentially one lawsuit to settle one claim split conceptually into separate parts because of historical developments. And since Congress in the Jones Act has declared that the negligence part of the claim shall be tried by a jury, we would not be free, even if we wished, to require submission of all the claims to the judge alone. Therefore, the jury, a time-honored institution in our jurisprudence, is the only tribunal competent under the present congressional enactments to try all the claims. Accordingly, we hold that a maintenance and cure claim joined with a Jones Act claim must be submitted to the jury when both arise out of one set of facts.' 10

          It therefore is beyond question that a plaintiff who files a complaint at law under the Jones Act and demands a jury trial, has the right to join with it and have tried before a jury as pendent to it his claims under maritime law for unseaworthiness and for maintenance and cure. The Jones Act, however, provides the right to trial by jury only in an action at law, 11 and for such an action establishes a venue requirement. 12 The district court concluded that plaintiff's action did not satisfy the venue requirement of an action at law under the Jones Act because Pennsylvania was not

Page 741

the place of residence or principal place of business of the defendant. It held that all the claims could proceed in admiralty, whose venue requirement is that the action be brought wherever the defendant may be served with process or wherever defendant's property may be attached. 13 It was proper to proceed with all the claims in admiralty since the claims for unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure are creatures of admiralty and the Jones Act has been construed to permit a Jones Act claim for negligence to be maintained as an independent admiralty action. 14

          The district court's conclusion on venue, however, was based on a misapprehension of the factual situation. It was undisputed that defendant was incorporated within the judicial district in which the action was brought. This was the place of defendant's residence for venue under the Jones Act, 15 and since the Jones Act's requirement for venue in an action at law therefore was satisfied, plaintiff could have obtained trial by jury of his Jones Act negligence claim and with it, under Fitzgerald, trial before the same jury of his unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure claims if they had been made pendent to it on the law side of the court.

         Plaintiff did not, however, seek the trial of all his claims on the law side of the...

To continue reading