Swanson v. Marra Bros

Decision Date22 April 1946
Docket NumberNo. 405,405
Citation90 L.Ed. 1045,66 S.Ct. 869,328 U.S. 1
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Abraham E. Freedman, of Philadelphia, Pa., for petitioner.

Mr. Joseph W. Henderson, of Philadelphia, Pa., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, a longshoreman in the employ of respondent stevedoring company, while on a pier and engaged in loading cargo on a vessel lying alongside in the harbor of Philadelphia, was struck by a life raft which fell from the vessel and injured him. The question for decision, which was reserved in O'Donnell v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 318 U.S. 36, 43, 44, 63 S.Ct. 488, 492, 87 L.Ed. 596, is whether petitioner may maintain a suit against his employer to recover for the injury, under the Jones Act, 41 Stat. 1007, 46 U.S.C. § 688, 46 U.S.C.A. § 688.

Petitioner, after having sought and received compensation for his injury under the state employers liability act of Pennsylvania, brought the present suit in the District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania 'pursuant to the Maritime Law as modified by Section 33 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920' (the Jones Act). He alleged as the cause of the injury respondent's breach of duty in failing to provide a safe and seaworthy vessel and appliances and a safe place for petitioner to work, and in failing to make the life raft secure and to make adequate inspection of it. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that there could be no recovery under the Jones Act by one not a seaman for an injury suffered by him while on shore. D.C., 57 F.Supp. 456. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed. We granted certiorari, 326 U.S. 710, 66 S.Ct. 139, because of the novelty and importance of the question presented.

The Jones Act provides in pertinent part: 'Any seaman who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right of trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply * * *.' The Act thus made applicable to seamen, injured in the course of their employment, the provisions of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq., 45 U.S.C.A. § 51 et seq., which give to railroad employees a right of recovery for injuries resulting from the negligence of their employer, its agents or employees. Panama R. Co. v. Johnson, 264 U.S. 375, 44 S.Ct. 391, 68 L.Ed. 748; The Arizona v. Anelich, 298 U.S. 110, 118, 56 S.Ct. 707, 709, 80 L.Ed. 1075.

We have held that a stevedore who was injured while storing cargo, and while on but not employed by a vessel lying in navigable waters, was authorized by the Jones Act to bring suit against his employer to recover for injury caused by the employer's negligence. International Stevedoring Co. v. Haverty, 272 U.S. 50, 47 S.Ct. 19, 71 L.Ed. 157; Uravic v. F. Jarka &amp Co., 282 U.S. 234, 51 S.Ct. 111, 75 L.Ed. 312. It was thought that both the language and the policy of the Act indicated that by taking over principles of recovery already established for the employees of interstate railroads and in making them applicable in the admiralty setting, Congress intended to extend them to stevedores, the employees of an independent contractor, while working on a vessel in navigable waters and while rendering services customarily performed by seamen. International Stevedore Co. v. Haverty, supra, 272 U.S. 52, 47 S.Ct. 19, 71 L.Ed. 157; see O'Donnell v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., supra, 318 U.S. 38, 39, 63 S.Ct. 489, 490, 87 L.Ed. 596.

Petitioner, in urging that the doctrine of the Haverty case be extended so as to allow him to recover for his injuries sustained on shore, places his reliance on O'Donnell v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., supra. We there held the ship owner liable, under the Jones Act, for injuries caused to a seaman by a fellow servant while the former was on shore engaged in repairing a conduit which was a part of the vessel and used for discharging its cargo. But in that case we sustained the recovery because the injured person was a seaman and an employee of the vessel, engaged in the course of his employment as such. An incident to his employment by the vessel as a seaman was his right to maintenance and cure for injuries received in the course of his employment, a cause of action traditionally cognizable in admiralty. The Osceola, 189 U.S. 158, 175, 23 S.Ct. 483, 487, 47 L.Ed. 760; Calmar S.S. Corp. v. Taylor, 303 U.S. 525, 527, 528, 58 S.Ct. 651, 652, 653, 82 L.Ed. 993. The jurisdiction of admiralty over such a cause of action depends, not on the place where the injury is inflicted, compare The Plymouth, 3 Wall. 20, 18 L.Ed. 125; Cleveland Terminal and Valley R. Co. v. Cleveland Steamboat Co., 208 U.S. 316, 28 S.Ct. 414, 52 L.Ed. 508, 13 Ann.Cas. 1215; see Minnie v. Port Huron Terminal Co., 295 U.S. 647, 55 S.Ct. 884, 79 L.Ed. 1631; The Admiral Peoples, 295 U.S. 649, 55 S.Ct. 885, 79 L.Ed. 1633, but on the nature of the seaman's service, his status as a member of the vessel, and his relationship as such to the vessel and its operation in navigable waters. O'Don- nell v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., supra, 318 U.S. 42, 43, 63 S.Ct. 491, 492, 87 L.Ed. 596; cf. Calmar S.S. Corp. v. Taylor, supra.

Congress, in thus enlarging an admiralty remedy, was exercising its constitutional power to regulate commerce, and to make laws which shall be necessary and proper to carry into execution powers vested by the Constitution in the Government or any department of it, Art. I, § 8, cl. 18, including the judicial power which, by Art. III, § 2, extends 'to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction.' By § 9 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 76, 28 U.S.C. § 371 (Third), 28 U.S.C.A. § 371(3), Congress conferred on the district courts 'exclusive original cognizance of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction * * * saving to suitors, in all cases, the right to a common law remedy, where the common law is competent to give it * * *.' By the grant of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction in the Judiciary Article, and by § 9 of the Judiciary Act, the national Government took over the traditional body of rules, precepts and practices known to lawyers and legislators as the maritime law, so far as the courts invested with admiralty jurisdiction should accept and apply them. See O'Donnell v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., supra, 318 U.S. 40, 63 S.Ct. 490, 87 L.Ed. 596, and cases cited.

We have no occasion to consider here whether Congress, by the Jones Act, undertook to or could give a remedy against the employer for injuries caused by a vessel to his employees, not members of the crew of the vessel, while working on shore. For Congress, by later legislation, has expressed its purpose to restrict the liability of the employer under federal statutes to injuries to his employees occurring on navigable waters or inflicted upon an employee who is either a master or a member of a crew of the vessel, injured in the course of his employment as such.

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