431 F.2d 865 (5th Cir. 1970), 26749, Hornsby v. Fish Meal Co.

Docket Nº:26749.
Citation:431 F.2d 865
Party Name:Mrs. Barbara Jean HORNSBY et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. The FISH MEAL COMPANY et al., Defendants-Appellees. Jeraldine Fruge WILLIAMS et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. LOUISIANA MENHADEN COMPANY, Inc., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:August 06, 1970
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 865

431 F.2d 865 (5th Cir. 1970)

Mrs. Barbara Jean HORNSBY et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

The FISH MEAL COMPANY et al., Defendants-Appellees.

Jeraldine Fruge WILLIAMS et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

LOUISIANA MENHADEN COMPANY, Inc., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 26749.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

Aug. 6, 1970

Page 866

J. B. Jones, Jr., Cameron, La., Fromkin & Fromkin, Omaha, Neb., for Horns-by and another.

Payton R. Covington, Lake Charles, La., for Jeraldine Fruge Williams.

Edgar F. Barnett, Lake Charles, La., A. R. Christovich, Jr., New Orleans, La., L. B. Ullstrom, Denver, Colo., for defendants-appellees; Christovich & Kearney, New Orleans, La., of counsel.

Plauche & Plauche and A. Lane Plauche, Lake Charles, La., for Fireman's Fund Ins. Co.

Before JOHN R. BROWN, Chief Judge, and GODBOLD, Circuit Judge and CABOT, District Judge.

JOHN R. BROWN, Chief Judge:

Time and tide do not wait, but Courts do. 1 What was a perplexing issue has been resolved by the deliverance of the Supreme Court, an event for which we hopefully waited.

This case arose from the events on a clear summer afternoon in 1966. Roy Hornsby and Charles Williams were piloting small, single engine aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico, within one marine league of the Louisiana shore and thus the Death on the High Seas by Wrongful Act statute is inapplicable. 46 U.S.C.A. § 761 et seq. Each was engaged in spotting schools of menhaden for their respective employers' surface fishing boats when their aircraft collided, plunging into the sea and killing the pilots.

There has been no adequate explanation of the causes and exact circumstances of the collision. The survivors of each pilot sought damages for their wrongful deaths. And the District Court, 285 F.Supp. 990, assessed responsibility for this aeronautical enigma by attributing the cause of the collision to each pilot-- 50% To Hornsby and 50% To Williams. The District Court, however, denied recovery to both families on the ground that there was no death action at admiralty and that under the adjacent state's-- Louisiana--wrongful death action

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applicable contributory negligence was an absolute bar. 2

We reverse the District Court. There is now a cause of action for wrongful death in admiralty that is not dependent on adjacent state law. Consequently, the...

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