Canada Malting Co v. Paterson Steamships British Empire Grain Co v. Same Starnes v. Same, Nos. 487-489

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRANDEIS
Citation1932 A. M. C. 512,52 S.Ct. 413,76 L.Ed. 837,285 U.S. 413
PartiesCANADA MALTING CO., Limited, v. PATERSON STEAMSHIPS, Limited. BRITISH EMPIRE GRAIN CO., Limited, v. SAME. STARNES v. SAME
Decision Date11 April 1932
Docket NumberNos. 487-489

285 U.S. 413
52 S.Ct. 413
76 L.Ed. 837
CANADA MALTING CO., Limited,

v.

PATERSON STEAMSHIPS, Limited. BRITISH EMPIRE GRAIN CO., Limited, v. SAME. STARNES v. SAME.

Nos. 487-489.
Argued Feb. 25, 1932.
Decided April 11, 1932.

Page 414

Messrs. D. Roger Englar and Henry J. Bigham, both of New York City, for petitioners.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 414-417 intentionally omitted]

Page 417

Mr. Ray M. Stanley, of Buffalo, N. Y., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

These three libels in admiralty in personam were brought in the federal court for western New York, by owners of cargo laden on the steamer Yorkton to recover for loss resulting from the sinking of that vessel in a collision with respondent's steamer Mantadoc, in Lake Superior, on the American side of the international boundary line. The respondent moved, in each case, that the District Court exercise its discretion to decline jurisdiction and dismiss the libels on the ground that all the parties were citizens of Canada, and that the controversy concerned 'matters * * * properly the subjects of hearing and determination' by the Canadian courts. The motions were granted (49 F.(2d) 802, 804), and the decrees of the District Court were affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (51 F.(2d) 1007). This court granted certiorari, 284 U. S. 612, 52 S. Ct. 131, 76 L. Ed. —.

Shortly after the collision, the Wreck Commissioner of Canada held a formal investigation, as required by law, respecting the circumstances of the collision, and determined that the masters of both vessels were at fault. The respondent then instituted in the admiralty court of Canada a proceeding for the judicial determination of the liability as between the colliding vessels and their owners.

Page 418

The libelants' motive for invoking the jurisdiction of a court of the United States, instead of that of the Canadian court in which that proceeding was pending, appears in affidavits filed with the exceptions to the libel. Under the Canadian law, it is stated, if both colliding vessels were at fault each vessel would be liable for not more than half of the loss; and the salvaged value of the Yorkton might not suffice to pay its share. See The Milan, Lush. Adm. 401. Under our law the innocent cargo owner can recover full damages from the noncarrying vessel. The New York, 175 U. S. 187, 209, 210, 20 S. Ct. 67, 44 L. Ed. 126.

The libelants concede, as they must, that in a suit in admiralty between foreigners it is ordinarily within the discretion of the District Court to refuse to retain jurisdiction, and that the exercise of its discretion will not be disturbed unless abused. Charter Shipping Co. v. Bowring, Jones & Tidy, Ltd., 281 U. S. 515, 517, 50 S. Ct. 400, 74 L. Ed. 1008. Compare Watts, Watts & Co. v. Unione Austriaca di Navigazione, 248 U. S. 9, 39 S. Ct. 1, 63 L. Ed. 100, 3 A. L. R. 323; Langnes v. Green, 282 U. S. 531, 544, 51 S. Ct. 243, 75 L. Ed. 520. They claim, however, that the rule is not applicable here, since the cause of action arose within the territorial limits of the United States; and, moreover, that if the District Court had discretion, the decrees should be reversed because, on the undisputed facts, it was an abuse of discretion to decline jurisdiction. We are of opinion that neither claim is well founded.

First. The contention that the jurisdiction was obligatory rests upon the fact that the collision occurred within the territorial waters of the United States. The argument is that a cause of action arising from a collision occurring on territorial waters of the United States arises out of its laws, since within its territory there can be no other law, Smith v. Condry, 1 How. 28, 33, 11 L. Ed. 35; Slater v. Mexican National R. Co., 194 U. S. 120, 126, 24 S. Ct. 581, 48 L. Ed. 900; New York Central R. Co. v. Chisholm, 268 U. S. 29, 32, 45 S. Ct. 402, 69 L. Ed. 828, 38 A. L. R. 1048; that the Constitution, art. 3, § 2, cl. 1, extends the judicial

Page 419

power to 'all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction'; that section 24 of the Judicial Code (28 USCA § 41) confers upon the District Court jurisdiction 'of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction'; and that by vesting jurisdiction in that court, Congress imposed a duty upon it to exercise the jurisdiction. Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 404, 5 L. Ed. 257; McClellan v. Carland, 217 U. S. 268, 281, 30 S. Ct. 501, 54 L. Ed. 762; Second Employers' Liability Case, 223 U. S. 1, 58, 59, 32 S. Ct. 169, 56 L. Ed. 327, 38 L. R. A. (N. S.) 44. In support of the argument that there is no power to decline jurisdiction in cases where the cause of action arose within the United States, the libelants urge the statement in The Belgenland, 114 U. S. 355, 365, 5 S. Ct. 860, 865, 29 L. Ed. 152, that 'the courts will use a discretion about assuming jurisdiction of controversies between foreigners in cases arising beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the country to which the courts belong.'

The respondent insists that the doctrine of lex loci delicti has no application to cases of collision on the Great Lakes; that the Great Lakes and their connecting channels constitute public navigable waters, irrespective of the location of the international boundary, and possess all the characteristics of the high seas, The Eagle, 8 Wall. 15, 22, 19 L. Ed. 365; United States v. Rodgers, 150 U. S. 249, 256, 14 S. Ct. 109, 37 L. Ed. 1071; Panama R. Co. v. Napier Shipping Co., 166 U. S. 280, 285, 17 S. Ct. 572, 41 L. Ed. 1004; The New York, 175 U. S. 187, 20 S. Ct. 67, 44 L. Ed. 126; The Robert W. Parsons, 191 U. S. 17, 27, 24 S. Ct. 8, 48 L. Ed. 73; that in a case of collision on the high seas between two vessels of the same nationality, liability is governed by the law of the flag, The Scotland, 105 U. S. 24, 29, 30, 26 L. Ed. 1001; The Eagle Point (C. C. A.) 142 F. 453, 454; that the Canadian law would apply in the cases at bar; and that hence, the asserted ground for the District Court's retaining jurisdiction fails.

We have no occasion to inquire by what law the rights of the parties are governed, as we are of the opinion that, under any view of that question, it lay within the discretion of the District Court to decline to assume jurisdiction

Page 420

over the controversy. The suggestion drawn from the language in The Belgenland, supra, that such discretion exists only 'in cases arising beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the country to which the courts belong,' is without support in either the earlier or the later decisions of this court. Nor is it justified by the language relied on, when that language is read in its context. The case of The Belgenland arose out of a collision on the high seas between foreign vessels of different nationalities; and the objection was raised that the courts of the United States were wholly without jurisdiction. Mr. Justice Bradley,...

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203 practice notes
  • Hoffman v. Blaski Sullivan v. Behimer, Nos. 25
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 13, 1960
    ...as of right over the defendant's objection. See Canada Malting Co. v. Paterson Steamships, Ltd., D.C., 49 F.2d 802, 804, affirmed, 285 U.S. 413, 424, 52 S.Ct. 413, 416, 76 L.Ed. 837; Giatilis v. The Darnie, D.C., 171 F.Supp. 751, 754; Bulkley, Dunton Paper Co. v. The Rio Salado, D.C., 67 F.......
  • Boaz v. Boyle & Co., No. B076776
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 21, 1995
    ...must exercise it, is not Page 892 universally true." (Brandeis, J., in Canada Malting Co., Ltd. v. Paterson Steamships, Ltd. (1932) 285 U.S. 413, 422, 52 S.Ct. 413, 415, 76 L.Ed. 837.) A principal reason for not exercising jurisdiction, recognized by state and federal courts, is that the fo......
  • Alcoa Steamship Company, Inc. v. M/V Nordic Regent, No. 826
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 10, 1979
    ...in deciding whetherto accept jurisdiction in an admiralty suit between foreigners. See canada Malting Co. v. Paterson Steamships, Ltd., 285 U.S. 413, 421-23, 52 S.Ct. 413, 76 L.Ed. 837 (1932). However, the rule mandating retention of jurisdiction was generally followed where the plaintiff w......
  • In re Unterweser Reederei, GMBH, No. 27497.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 19, 1970
    ...Compania Colombiana Del Caribe, S. A., 339 U.S. 684, 70 S.Ct. 861, 94 L.Ed. 1206 (1950). See Canada Malting Co. v. Paterson S. S., Ltd., 285 U.S. 413, 52 S.Ct. 413, 76 L.Ed. 837 35 In a footnote to its brief, Unterweser states: At oral argument on its Motion, counsel advised the District Co......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
200 cases
  • Hoffman v. Blaski Sullivan v. Behimer, Nos. 25
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 13, 1960
    ...as of right over the defendant's objection. See Canada Malting Co. v. Paterson Steamships, Ltd., D.C., 49 F.2d 802, 804, affirmed, 285 U.S. 413, 424, 52 S.Ct. 413, 416, 76 L.Ed. 837; Giatilis v. The Darnie, D.C., 171 F.Supp. 751, 754; Bulkley, Dunton Paper Co. v. The Rio Salado, D.C., 67 F.......
  • Boaz v. Boyle & Co., No. B076776
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 21, 1995
    ...must exercise it, is not Page 892 universally true." (Brandeis, J., in Canada Malting Co., Ltd. v. Paterson Steamships, Ltd. (1932) 285 U.S. 413, 422, 52 S.Ct. 413, 415, 76 L.Ed. 837.) A principal reason for not exercising jurisdiction, recognized by state and federal courts, is that the fo......
  • Alcoa Steamship Company, Inc. v. M/V Nordic Regent, No. 826
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 10, 1979
    ...in deciding whetherto accept jurisdiction in an admiralty suit between foreigners. See canada Malting Co. v. Paterson Steamships, Ltd., 285 U.S. 413, 421-23, 52 S.Ct. 413, 76 L.Ed. 837 (1932). However, the rule mandating retention of jurisdiction was generally followed where the plaintiff w......
  • In re Unterweser Reederei, GMBH, No. 27497.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 19, 1970
    ...Compania Colombiana Del Caribe, S. A., 339 U.S. 684, 70 S.Ct. 861, 94 L.Ed. 1206 (1950). See Canada Malting Co. v. Paterson S. S., Ltd., 285 U.S. 413, 52 S.Ct. 413, 76 L.Ed. 837 35 In a footnote to its brief, Unterweser states: At oral argument on its Motion, counsel advised the District Co......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Rethinking legal globalization: the case of transnational personal jurisdiction.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 54 Nbr. 5, April 2013
    • April 1, 2013
    ...is between aliens or non-residents or where for kindred reasons the litigation can more appropriately be conducted in a foreign tribunal." 285 U.S. 413, 423 (1932). The doctrine arose mostly in the admiralty context, although some state court case law supported a broader doctrine outside of......

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