Cuozzo v Italian Line, 'Italia'

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Date11 December 1958
United States, District Court, Southern District, New York.
Italian Line, ItaliaSociet per Azioni di NavigazioneGenoa.

Jurisdiction On the high seas Injury to alien Aboard foreign vessel Maritime tort Litigation in municipal court Discretionary nature of jurisdiction The law of the United States of America.

The Facts.The plaintiff, an Italian national resident in the United States, sued the defendant, a shipping line incorporated in Italy but doing business, in the United States, for injuries which the plaintiff had sustained on the high seas, allegedly through the negligence of the defendant, while she was a passenger on one of the ships of the defendant. The action was brought on the civil side of the District Court. On a motion to dismiss the action for lack of jurisdiction,

Held: that the motion must be granted unless the plaintiff should consent to transfer the action to the admiralty side of the Court. As a matter of the municipal law of the United States, the Court lacked jurisdiction over a civil action between two aliens. However, under the municipal law of that country, the federal District Courts were invested with maritime jurisdiction and had, even if both parties were aliens, discretion to retain jurisdiction on their admiralty side over a maritime action when such action appeared necessary to prevent a failure of justice or when the rights of the parties would thereby be promoted. Since the plaintiff and all her witnesses were residents of the United States, the Court should exercise its discretion to retain jurisdiction in this case.

After dealing with issues of the law of the United States, the Court said: However, the plaintiff contends that this court has jurisdiction, despite the alienship of the parties, because the case involves a maritime tort and by the specific language of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C.A. 1333, jurisdiction thereover is vested in this court.1

An action based upon an injury to a passenger of a vessel while on the high seas and caused by negligence comes within the scope of a maritime cause of action. The PlymouthUNKUNK, 1866, 3 Wall. 20, 70 U.S. 20, 18 L.Ed. 125; The Admiral PeoplesUNKUNK, 1935, 295 U.S. 649, 55 S.Ct. 885, 79 L.Ed. 1633. Where, however, the suit is between aliens,

this court, while it is not obligated to take jurisdiction, may in its discretion do so, when it is necessary to prevent a failure of justice or when the rights of parties would thereby be best promoted. Heredia v. Davies, 4...

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