Grantship Co v. Rohde

Decision Date03 January 1922
Docket NumberSMITH-PORTER,No. 35,35
Citation257 U.S. 469,66 L.Ed. 321,42 S.Ct. 157
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Charles A. Hart, of Portland, Or., for Grant Smith-Porter Ship Co.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 470-473 intentionally omitted] Mr. Harry A. Hegarty, of Washington, D. C., for Rohde.

Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Asking for instruction, the court below has sent up the following certificate and questions. Judicial Code, § 239 (Comp. St. § 1216).

'This cause came to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upon an appeal from the United States District Court of Oregon from a judgment in favor of the appellee as libelant in that court, and against the appellant as libelee in that court, for the sum of $10,000. The cause was a libel in admiralty for damages for injury sustained.

'Libelant, Herman F. Rohde, received injury while at work on a partially completed vessel lying at a dock in the Willamette River forming a part of the shipbuilding plant of respondent, Grant Smith-Porter Ship Company. The character of the work being done by libelant and the operations of respondent of which the work formed a part are as follows: Respondent, Grant Smith-Porter Ship Company, at and prior to the time of libelant's injury was engaged in constructing steam vessels for the United States government under contract with United States Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation. One of these steam vessels was the steamer 'Ahala.' Prior to the time of libelant's injury this steamer had been launched in the Willamette River at Portland, Oregon, which river is a part of the navigable waters of the United States. At the time of libelant's injury, April 10, 1919, the vessel had been substantially completed, but was not ready for delivery and all of the work in process at the time of libelant's injury was work pertaining to the construction of the vessel by respondent, Grant Smith-Porter Ship Company. Libelant's work was that of a carpenter or joiner and at the time of the injury he was at work constructing a bulkhead enclosing certain tanks in the vessel.

'Libelant began this proceeding in personam against respondent in the District Court of the United States for the District of Oregon sitting in admiralty. Negligence of the employer, respondent Grant Smith-Porter Ship Company, in the construction and maintenance of a scaffold is alleged as the ground for recovering of damages.

'At and prior to the time of libelant's injury, there was in effect the so-called 'Workmen's Compensation Law' of the State of Oregon (chapter 112, Laws of Oregon, 1913, as amended chapter 271, Laws of 1915, and chapter 288, Laws of 1917). The law applied to hazardous occupations (including shipbuilding) within the State of Oregon. An option is given both to employers and workmen to accept the compensation law or to reject it; that is, both employers and workmen are required to notify the proper state authority if it is desired not to come under the act. Without such notice, the law is applicable and payments are required to be made by the employer, which payments include deductions from the wages of workmen. Workmen who thus come under the act are entitled to receive certain specified payments in the event of injury, and the act provides (section 12): 'And the right to receive such sum or sums shall be in lieu of all claims against his employer on account of such injury or death, except as hereinafter specifically provided.'

'At and prior to the time of libelant's injury, respondent was engaged in shipbuilding operations on the Willamette River at Portland within the State of Oregon; and libelant was in its employ as a carpenter or joiner in such shipbuilding operations. Prior to the time of the injury, neither respondent, the employer, nor libelant, the workman, had notified the appropriate state authority of any rejection of the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act, and up to the time of the injury, respondent, the employer, had taken all the steps required by the compensation act to bring the work under its provisions; and there had been deducted and paid over to the commission administering the compensation fund payments from wages earned and paid libelant, the workman, up to the time of the injury. Payroll deductions from the wages of libelant and other workmen were made without regard to whether or not the work done by such workman was on vessels under construction on the ways or vessels under construction after launching.

'Questions of law concerning which the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit desires the instruction of the Supreme Court are: (1) Is there jurisdiction in admiralty because the alleged tort occurred on navigable waters? (2) Is libelant entitled because of his injury to proceed in admiralty against respondent for the damages suffered?'

The contract for constructing 'The Ahala' was nonmaritime, and although the incompleted structure upon which the accident occurred was lying in navigable waters neither Rohde's general employment, nor his activities at the time, had any direct relation to navigation or commerce. Thames Towboat Co. v. Schooner Francis McDonald, 254 U. S. 242, 41 Sup. Ct. 65, 65 L. Ed. 245. The injury was suffered within a State whose positive enactment prescribed an exclusive remedy therefor. And as both parties had accepted and proceeded under the statute by making payments to the Industrial Accident Fund it cannot properly be said that they consciously contracted with each other in contemplation of the general system of...

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  • Hamilton v. County of Los Angeles
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 20 mai 1982
    ...of the injury or the nature of the employment contract involved few maritime characteristics. In Grant Smith- Porter Co. v. Rohde (1922) 257 U.S. 469, 42 S.Ct. 157, 66 L.Ed. 321, a carpenter was injured while working on a partially completed vessel. The court found that the parties' contrac......
  • Rodriguez v. Union Oil Co. of Cal.
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    ...46 S.Ct. 194, 70 L.Ed. 470; Western Fuel Co. v. Garcia, 1921, 257 U.S. 233, 42 S.Ct. 89, 66 L.Ed. 210; Grant Smith-Porter Ship Co. v. Rohde, 1922, 257 U.S. 469, 42 S.Ct. 157, 66 L.Ed. 321; Southern Pac. Co. v. Jensen, 1917, 244 U.S. 205, 37 S.Ct. 524, 61 L.Ed. 1086; Belden v. Chase, 1893, 1......
  • Lowe v. Ingalls Shipbuilding, a Div. of Litton Systems, Inc.
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    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • 30 janvier 1984
    ...was not engaged in maritime activity, the tort was maritime if it took effect on navigable waters. Grant Smith-Porter Ship Co. v. Rohde, 257 U.S. 469, 42 S.Ct. 157, 66 L.Ed. 321 (1922) (injury to ship construction worker on board ship being constructed in navigable waters is maritime tort; ......
  • Hall v. Hvide Hull No. 3
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • 15 novembre 1984
    ...Cir.1982); Rogers v. M/V Gollinger, 279 F.Supp. 92, 96 (E.D.La.1968) (Rubin, J.). See also Grant Smith-Porter Ship Co. v. Rohde, 257 U.S. 469, 477-78, 42 S.Ct. 157, 159, 66 L.Ed.2d 321 (1922). Under the Supreme Court's decisions in Perini and Scindia, supra, therefore, the Congressional int......
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