76 F.Supp. 601 (D. Puerto Rico 1948), Civ. 3741, Ferrer v. Waterman S.S. Corp.

Docket Nº:Civ. 3741
Citation:76 F.Supp. 601
Party Name:Ferrer v. Waterman S.S. Corp.
Case Date:April 06, 1948
Court:United States District Courts, 1st Circuit, District of Puerto Rico
 
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Page 601

76 F.Supp. 601 (D. Puerto Rico 1948)

FERRER et al.

v.

WATERMAN S.S. CORPORATION.

TORRES et al.

v.

SAME.

ALGARIN et al.

v.

SAME.

Civ. Nos. 3741, 4034, 4035.

United States District Court, D. Puerto Rico

April 6, 1948

Arturo Ortiz Toro, of San Juan, P.R., for plaintiffs.

James R. Beverley, of San Juan, P.R., for Waterman S.S. Corporation.

Philip F. Herrick, U.S. Atty., of San Juan, P.R., for U.S. of America.

CHAVEZ, District Judge.

The matter before the Court is upon the motion of the defendant Waterman Steamship Corporation and the United States of America, intervenor, praying.

(1) that the Waterman Steamship Corporation be permitted to amend its answer to the complaints of the three consolidated causes by adding thereto special defenses under sections 9 and 11 of the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, Public Law No. 49, 80th Congress, approved May 14, 1947, 29 U.S.C.A. § 251 et seq.

(2) That the District Court grant a rehearing for the purpose of taking testimony and hearing argument in connection with the aforesaid special defenses.

Two questions arise in the disposition of this motion: (1) did the plaintiffs obtain a vested right by the judgment entered by the District Court on April 25, 1947, and the amended judgment dated May 12, 1947; and (2) are sections 9 and 11 of the Portal-to-Portal Act constitutional.

The plaintiffs claim that the statutory right to recover compensation or damages is indestructible by the repeal of the Statute, once the event or transaction has occurred to which the statute applies and that causes of action which arise therefrom come within the protection of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

Page 602

The record discloses the following: the judgment in the consolidated causes was entered on April 25, 1947. On May 12, 1947, an amended judgment was entered making designated awards of indebtedness and liquidated damages to certain plaintiffs whose names and amounts appear in a list attached thereto and dismissing the complaints as to all plaintiffs not so named or listed.

The defendant Waterman Steamship Corporation filed its first notice of appeal on May 5, 1947 and an amended notice of appeal on May 15, 1947.

The United States filed its notice of appeal on May 16, 1947.

On July 31, 1947 the mandate of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit was entered directing the return of the record to the District Court for the purpose of further proceedings and commanding that such further proceedings be had in said consolidated causes in conformity with the order and mandate, as according to right and justice, and the laws of the United States, ought to be had, the said consolidated appeals notwithstanding.

Did the plaintiffs acquire a vested right in the judgment entered on April 25, 1947 and the amended judgment entered on May 12, 1947 or, put in another way, were the judgments entered on April 25 and May 12, 1947 final judgments.

In Kennedy Coal Corp. v. Buckhorn Coal Corp., 140 Va. 37, 124 S.E. 482, 484, upon the question of what constituted a vested right, the Court said:

'Now, what is a vested right? Without reference to a dictionary definition we would define it as a right, so fixed, that it is not dependent on any future act, contingency, or decision to make it more secure. * * * The right of appellees at the time of the rendition of the judgment of the court contained in the decree was not fixed in the sense that it was settled. It was an inchoate right, which would become vested upon the happening of one of two events, viz., an affirmance of the decree of the trial court by the Supreme Court of Appeals, or by the expiration of the period allowed at the time in which to take an appeal.'

In Carroll Elec. Co. v. Snelling, 62 F.2d 413, a case decided by the Circuit Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit, on December 17, 1932, the Court quoted with approval the case of Allen v. Reed, 60 App.D.C. 346, 54 F.2d 713, 714, wherein the Court said:

'A judgment appealed from is not a final judgment. It is merely an adjudication of the inferior court, the finality of which depends upon the action of the superior court.'

In Western Union Tel. Co. v. L. & N. R. Co., 258 U.S. 13, 18, 42 S.Ct. 258, 259, 66 L.Ed. 437, the Court speaking through Mr. Justice McKenna made the following terse comment:

'The assignments of error of the Telegraph Company are in effect repetition of its contentions in the District Court (and we may say of its contentions in the Circuit Court of Appeals) and are all based on the asserted...

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