Yamaha Motor Corp. v. Calhoun, 941387

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtGINSBURG
Citation516 U.S. 199,116 S.Ct. 619,133 L.Ed.2d 578
PartiesYAMAHA MOTOR CORPORATION, U.S.A., et al. , Petitioners, v. Lucien B. CALHOUN, etc., et al
Docket Number941387
Decision Date09 January 1996

516 U.S. 199
116 S.Ct. 619
133 L.Ed.2d 578
YAMAHA MOTOR CORPORATION, U.S.A., et al. , Petitioners,

v.

Lucien B. CALHOUN, etc., et al.

No. 94-1387.
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued Oct. 31, 1995.
Decided Jan. 9, 1996.
Syllabus*

Twelve-year-old Natalie Calhoun was killed in a collision in territorial waters off Puerto Rico while riding a jet ski manufactured and distributed by petitioners Yamaha. Natalie's parents, respondents Calhoun, filed this federal diversity and admiralty action for damages against Yamaha, invoking Pennsylvania's wrongful death and survival statutes. The District Court agreed with Yamaha that the federal maritime wrongful death action recognized in Moragne v. States Marine Lines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375, 90 S.Ct. 1772, 26 L.Ed.2d 339, controlled to the exclusion of state law. In its order presenting the matter for immediate interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), the District Court certified questions of law concerning the recoverability of particular items of damages under Moragne. The Third Circuit granted interlocutory review, but the panel to which the appeal was assigned did not reach the questions presented in the certified order. Instead, the panel addressed and resolved an anterior issue; it held that state remedies remain applicable in accident cases of this type and have not been displaced by the federal maritime wrongful death action recognized in Moragne.

Held:

1. Section 1292(b) provides that "[w]hen a district judge, in making . . . an order not otherwise appealable . . ., shall be of the opinion that such order involves a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation, he shall so state in writing in such order," and specifies that "the Court of Appeals . . . may thereupon, in its discretion, permit an appeal to be taken from such order " (emphasis added). As that text indicates, the court of appeals can exercise interlocutory jurisdiction over any question fairly included within the order certified by the district court, and is not limited to the particular questions of law therein formulated. P. 623.

2. In maritime wrongful death cases in which no federal statute specifies the appropriate relief and the decedent was not a seaman, longshore worker, or person otherwise engaged in a maritime trade, state remedies remain applicable and have not been displaced by the wrongful death action recognized in Moragne. Pp. 623-629.

(a) In The Harrisburg, 119 U.S. 199, 7 S.Ct. 140, 30 L.Ed. 358, this Court ruled that the general maritime law (a species of judge-made federal common law) did not afford a cause of action for wrongful death. Federal admiralty courts, prior to Moragne, tempered the harshness of The Harrisburg's rule by allowing recovery under state wrongful death and survival statutes in maritime accident cases. See, e.g., Western Fuel Co. v. Garcia, 257 U.S. 233, 42 S.Ct. 89, 66 L.Ed. 210. Such state laws proved an adequate supplement to federal maritime law, until a series of this Court's decisions transformed the maritime doctrine of unseaworthiness into a rule making shipowners strictly liable to seamen injured by the owners' failure to supply safe ships. See, e.g., Mahnich v. Southern S.S. Co., 321 U.S. 96, 64 S.Ct. 455, 88 L.Ed. 561. By the time Moragne was decided, claims premised on unseaworthiness had become "the principal vehicle for recovery" by seamen and other maritime workers injured or killed in the course of their employment. 398 U.S., at 399, 90 S.Ct., at 1787. The disparity between the unseaworthiness doctrine's strict liability standard and negligence-based state wron gful death statutes prompted the Moragne Court, id., at 409, 90 S.Ct., at 1792, to overrule The Harrisburg and hold that an action "lie[s] under general maritime law for death caused by violation of maritime duties." Pp. 623-625.

(b) This Court rejects Yamaha's argument that Moragne's wrongful death action covers the waters, creating a uniform federal maritime remedy for all deaths occurring in state territorial waters, and ousting all state remedies previously available to supplement general maritime law. The uniformity concerns that prompted the Moragne Court to overrule The Harrisburg related to ships and the workers who serve them, and to the frequent unavailability of unseaworthiness, a distinctively maritime substantive concept, as a basis of liability under state law. See 398 U.S., at 395-396, 90 S.Ct., at 1784-1785. The concerns underlying Moragne were of a different order than those invoked by Yamaha. Notably, Yamaha seeks the contraction of remedies, not the extension of relief in light of the "humane and liberal" character of admiralty proceedings recognized in Moragne. See id., at 387, 90 S.Ct., at 1780-1781. The Moragne Court tied its petitioner's unseaworthiness plea to a federal right-of-action anchor, but left in place the negligence claim she had stated under Florida's law, and thus showed no hostility to concurrent application of state wrongful death statutes that might provide a more generous remedy. Cf. Sun Ship, Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 447 U.S. 715, 724, 100 S.Ct. 2432, 2438-2439, 65 L.Ed.2d 458. No congressionally prescribed, comprehensive tort recovery regime prevents such enlargement of damages here. See Miles v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19, 30-36, 111 S.Ct. 317, 324-328, 112 L.Ed.2d 275. The only relevant congressional disposition, the Death on the High Seas Act, states that "[t]he provisions of any State statute giving or regulating rights of action or remedies for death shall not be affected by this chapter." 46 U.S.C.App. § 767. This statement, by its terms, simply stops DOHSA from displacing state law in territorial waters. See, e.g., Miles, supra, at 25, 111 S.Ct., at 321-322. Taking into account what Congress sought to achieve, however, the Court preserves the application of state statutes to deaths within territorial waters. Pp. 625-628.

40 F.3d 622 (C.A.3 1994), affirmed.

GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

James W. Bartlett, III, Baltimore, MD, for petitioners.

Paul A. Engelmayer, Washington, DC, for the U.S. as amicus curiae by special leave of the Court.

Alan B. Morrison, Washington, DC, for respondents.

Justice GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court.

Twelve-year-old Natalie Calhoun was killed in a jet ski accident on July 6, 1989. At the time of her death, she was vacationing with family friends at a beach-front resort in Puerto Rico. Alleging that the jet ski was defectively designed or made, Natalie's parents sought to recover from the manufacturer pursuant to state survival and wrongful death statutes. The manufacturer contended that state remedies could not be applied because Natalie died on navigable waters; federal, judge-declared maritime law, the manufacturer urged, controlled to the exclusion of state law.

Traditionally, state remedies have been applied in accident cases of this order—maritime wrongful death cases in which no federal statute specifies the appropriate relief and the decedent was not a seaman, longshore worker, or person otherwise engaged in a maritime trade. We hold, in accord with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, that state remedies remain applicable in such cases and have not been displaced by the federal maritime wrongful death action recognized in Moragne v. States Marine Lines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375, 90 S.Ct. 1772, 26 L.Ed.2d 339 (1970).

I

Natalie Calhoun, the twelve-year-old daughter of respondents Lucien and Robin Calhoun, died in a tragic accident on July 6, 1 989. On vacation with family friends at a resort hotel in Puerto Rico, Natalie had rented a "WaveJammer" jet ski manufactured by Yamaha Motor Company, Ltd., and distributed by Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. (collectively, "Yamaha"), the petitioners in this case. While riding the WaveJammer, Natalie slammed into a vessel anchored in the waters off the hotel frontage, and was killed.

The Calhouns, individually and in their capacities as administrators of their daughter's estate, sued Yamaha in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Invoking Pennsylvania's wrongful death and survival statutes, 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. §§ 8301-8302 (1982 and Supp.1995), the Calhouns asserted several bases for recovery (including negligence, strict liability, and breach of implied warranties), and sought damages for lost future earnings, loss of society, loss of support and services, and funeral expenses, as well as punitive damages. They grounded federal jurisdiction on both diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1332,1 and admiralty, 28 U.S.C. § 1333.

Yamaha moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that the federal maritime wrongful death action this Court recognized in Moragne v. States Marine Lines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375, 90 S.Ct. 1772, 26 L.Ed.2d 339 (1970), provided the exclusive basis for recovery, displacing all remedies afforded by state law. Under Moragne, Yamaha contended, the Calhouns could recover as damages only Natalie's funeral expenses. The District Court agreed with Yamaha that Moragne's maritime death action displaced state remedies; the court held, however, that loss of society and loss of support and services were compensable under Moragne.

Both sides asked the District Court to present questions for immediate interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). The District Court granted the parties' requests, and in its § 1292(b) certifying order stated:

"Natalie Calhoun, the minor child of plaintiffs Lucien B. Calhoun and Robin L. Calhoun, who are Pennsylvania residents, was killed in an accident not far off shore in Puerto Rico, in the territorial waters of the United States. Plaintiffs have brought a diversity suit against, inter alia, defendants...

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    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 27, 2016
    ...order that is appealable, and not the controlling question identified by the district court.’ ” Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun , 516 U.S. 199, 205, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133 L.Ed.2d 578 (1996) (quoting 9 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore'S Federal Practice¶ 110.25 [1] (2d ed. 1995)); see also C......
  • White v. Sabatino, Civ. No. 04-00500 ACK/LEK.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
    • July 20, 2007
    ...state and federal interests on a case-by-case basis." In re Exxon Valdez, 484 F.3d at 1101 (citing Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 210-15, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133 L.Ed.2d 578 Federal admiralty law holds that counties and municipalities can be held liable for the negligence o......
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    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • July 15, 2010
    ...order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.” 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b); see Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 204-05, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133 L.Ed.2d 578 (1996); Nystrom v. TREX Co., 339 F.3d 1347, 1351 (Fed.Cir.2003); Sonoco Prods. Co. v. Physicians Hea......
  • In Matter of Complaint of Vulcan Materials Co., Civil Action No. 2:08cv377.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • December 17, 2009
    ...this one, arising out of a maritime collision, fall within the Court's admiralty jurisdiction. See Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 206, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133 L.Ed.2d 578 II. FACTUAL FINDINGS A. The Navy RHIBs On October 11, 2007, nineteen-year-old Freddie N. Porter, Jr. an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
496 cases
  • Cazorla v. Koch Foods of Miss., L.L.C., No. 15-60562
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 27, 2016
    ...order that is appealable, and not the controlling question identified by the district court.’ ” Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun , 516 U.S. 199, 205, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133 L.Ed.2d 578 (1996) (quoting 9 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore'S Federal Practice¶ 110.25 [1] (2d ed. 1995)); see also C......
  • White v. Sabatino, Civ. No. 04-00500 ACK/LEK.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
    • July 20, 2007
    ...state and federal interests on a case-by-case basis." In re Exxon Valdez, 484 F.3d at 1101 (citing Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 210-15, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133 L.Ed.2d 578 Federal admiralty law holds that counties and municipalities can be held liable for the negligence o......
  • Wyeth v. Sandoz Inc, No. 5:07-CV-234-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • July 15, 2010
    ...order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.” 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b); see Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 204-05, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133 L.Ed.2d 578 (1996); Nystrom v. TREX Co., 339 F.3d 1347, 1351 (Fed.Cir.2003); Sonoco Prods. Co. v. Physicians Hea......
  • In Matter of Complaint of Vulcan Materials Co., Civil Action No. 2:08cv377.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • December 17, 2009
    ...this one, arising out of a maritime collision, fall within the Court's admiralty jurisdiction. See Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 206, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133 L.Ed.2d 578 II. FACTUAL FINDINGS A. The Navy RHIBs On October 11, 2007, nineteen-year-old Freddie N. Porter, Jr. an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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