Home > Supreme Court Admiralty Cases > 1970-1979

The following are links to Supreme Court cases concerning admiralty and maritime law issued during the period 1970 through 1979. The links are directed to Findlaw.com's database of Supreme Court opinions.


P. C. PFEIFFER CO. v. FORD, 444 U.S. 69 (1979)

"Section 2 (3) of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, as amended in 1972, defines an employee as "any person engaged in maritime employment, including any longshoreman or other person engaged in longshoring operations. . . ." The question in this case is whether two workers were engaged in "maritime employment," as defined by 2 (3), when they sustained injuries for which they sought compensation. Respondent Ford was injured on a public dock in the Port of Beaumont, Tex., while employed by petitioner P. C. Pfeiffer Co. and while fastening onto railroad flatcars military vehicles that had been delivered to the port by ship, stored, and then loaded the day before the accident onto the flatcars. Respondent Bryant, while working as a cotton header for petitioner Ayers Steamship Co. In the Port of Galveston, Tex., was injured while unloading a bale of cotton from a dray wagon into a pier warehouse. Cotton arriving at the port from inland shippers enters storage in cotton compress-warehouses, then goes by dray wagon to pier warehouses, and later is moved by longshoremen from the warehouses onto ships. Both Ford's and Bryant's claims for coverage were denied by Administrative Law Judges applying the "point of rest" doctrine whereby maritime employment would include only the portion of the unloading process that takes place before the stevedoring gang places cargo onto the dock and the portion of the loading process that takes place to the seaside of the last point of rest on the dock. The Benefits Review Board reversed both decisions, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. On remand for reconsideration in light of this Court's decision in Northeast Marine Terminal Co. v. Caputo, 432 U.S. 249, which rejected the "point of rest" theory, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed its earlier opinion.

Ford and Bryant were engaged in maritime employment at the time of their injuries because they were engaged in intermediate steps of moving cargo between ship and land transportation. . . ."Read the Opinion.


"Petitioner longshoreman, while employed by a stevedoring concern that respondent shipowner had engaged to unload cargo from its vessel, was injured in the course of that work, and received benefits for the injury from his employer under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (Act). Petitioner also brought this negligence action against respondent in Federal District Court, wherein the jury determined that petitioner was responsible for 10% of the total negligence resulting in his injury, that the stevedore's fault, through a coemployee's negligence, contributed 70%, and that respondent was accountable for 20%. Following established maritime law, the District Court reduced the award to petitioner by the 10% attributed to his own negligence but refused further to reduce the award against respondent in proportion to the fault of the stevedore-employer. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the 1972 Amendments to the Act had altered the traditional admiralty rule by making the shipowner liable only for that share of the total damages equivalent to the ratio of its fault to the total fault.

1. Under the 1972 Amendments to the Act, Congress did not intend to change the judicially created admiralty rule that the shipowner can be made to pay all the damages not due to the plaintiff's own negligence by imposing a proportionate-fault rule. . . .

2. Nor will this Court change the traditional rule so as to make the vessel liable only for the damages in proportion to its own negligence. By now changing what Congress understood to be the law and did not itself wish to modify, this Court might knock out of kilter the delicate balance effected by Congress concerning the liability of vessels, as third parties, to pay damages to longshoremen who are injured while engaged in stevedoring operations. This Court should stay its hand in these circumstances."  Read the Opinion.


"Appellant Japanese shipping companies' vessels carry cargo containers which, like the ships, are owned by appellants, are based, registered, and subjected to property tax in Japan, and are used exclusively in foreign commerce. A number of appellants' containers were temporarily present in appellee country and cities in California, and appellees levied property taxes on the containers. The California Supreme Court upheld the tax as applied.

1. This Court has appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1257 (2), since the California Supreme Court sustained the tax, as applied, as against the contention that such application would violate the Commerce Clause and various treaties. Pp. 440-441.

2. It is unnecessary to decide the board proposition whether mere use of international routes is enough, under the "home port doctrine," to render an instrumentality immune from tax in a nondomiciliary State. The question here is a more narrow one, namely, whether instrumentalities of commerce that are owned, based, and registered abroad, and that are used exclusively in international commerce, may be subjected to apportioned ad valorem property taxation by a State. . . .

4. The California ad valorem property tax, as applied to appellants' shipping containers, is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, since it results in multiple taxation of the instrumentalities of foreign commerce, Moorman Mfg. Co. v. Bair, 437 U.S. 267, distinguished, and prevents this Nation from "speaking with one voice" in regulating foreign trade and thus is inconsistent with Congress' power to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations."  Read the Opinion.


"The Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (Act) Amendments of 1972, to combat inflation, replaced the Act's $70 maximum limitation on weekly disability benefits with a four-step limitation scheme tied to specified percentages of the "applicable national average weekly wage" determined annually by the Secretary of Labor. 6 (b) (1). At the same time, death benefits to surviving spouses and children were increased, respectively, from 35% to 50% and from 15% to 16 2/3% of the deceased's average weekly wages. Total weekly death benefits were still limited to 66 2/3% of the deceased's average weekly wages, but the former specific dollar minimum and maximum limitations on average weekly wages were replaced by a provision dealing only with a minimum limitation tied to the applicable national average weekly wage. Thus, as amended, 9 (e) provides that "[i]n computing death benefits the average weekly wages of the deceased shall be considered to have been not less than the applicable national average weekly wage as prescribed in section 6 (b) but the total weekly benefits shall not exceed the average weekly wages of the deceased." Respondents, the widow and son of a covered employee, claimed combined death benefits ($532 per week) equal to 66 2/3% of the deceased's average weekly wages. The employer, its insurance carrier, and the Director of the Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (petitioners) contended that 6 (b) (1)'s limitation on disability payments (then $167 per week), was meant to apply to death benefits as well as disability benefits and that Congress' failure to place a maximum on death benefits when it amended 9 (e) was inadvertent. An administrative decision in respondents' favor was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 

Held: Death benefits payable under the Act are not subject to the maximum limitations placed on disability payments [440 U.S. 29, 30] by 6 (b) (1). This conclusion is supported by both the language and legislative history of the 1972 Amendments. . . ." Read the Opinion.


MOBIL OIL CORP. v. HIGGINBOTHAM, 436 U.S. 618 (1978) 

"In an action for wrongful death on the high seas, the measure of damages is governed by the Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U.S.C. 762, which limits a decedent's survivors' recovery to their "pecuniary loss," and hence the survivors are not entitled to recover additional damages under general maritime law for "loss of society." Read the Opinion.

RAY v. ATLANTIC RICHFIELD CO., 435 U.S. 151 (1978) 

"Appellees challenge the constitutionality of the Washington Tanker Law, which regulates the design, size, and movement of oil tankers in Puget Sound, both enrolled (those engaged in domestic or coastwise trade) and registered (those engaged in foreign trade). Three operative provisions are involved: (1) a requirement ( 88.16.180) that both enrolled and registered oil tankers of at least 50,000 deadweight tons (DWT) carry a Washington-licensed pilot while navigating the Sound; (2) a requirement ( 88.16.190 (2)) that enrolled and registered oil tankers of from 40,000 to 125,000 DWT satisfy certain design or safety standards, or else use tug escorts while operating in the Sound; and (3) a ban on the operation in the Sound of any tanker exceeding 125,000 DWT (88.16.190 (1)). A three-judge District Court adjudged the statute void in its entirety, upholding appellees' contentions that all the Tanker Law's operative provisions were pre-empted by federal law particularly the Ports and Waterways Safety Act of 1972 (PWSA), which is designed to insure vessel safety and the protection of navigable waters and adjacent shore areas from tanker oil spillage. Title I of the PWSA empowers the Secretary of Transportation to establish, operate, and require compliance with "vessel traffic services and systems" for ports subject to congested traffic and to control vessel traffic in especially hazardous areas by, among other things, establishing vessel size limitations. Pursuant to this Title, the Secretary, through his delegate, has promulgated the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic System, which contains general and communication rules, vessel movement reporting requirements, a traffic separation scheme, special ship movement rules applying to Rosario Strait (where under a local Coast Guard rule the passage of more than one 70,000 DWT vessel - in bad weather, 40,000 DWT - in either direction at a given time is prohibited), and other requirements. A State, though permitted to impose higher equipment or safety standards, may do so "for structures only." Title II, whose goals are to provide vessel safety and protect the marine environment, provides that the Secretary shall issue such rules and regulations as may be necessary with respect to the design, construction, and operation of oil tankers; provides for inspection of vessels for [435 U.S. 151, 152] compliance with the Secretary's safety and environmental regulations; and prohibits the carrying of specified cargoes absent issuance of a certificate of inspection evidencing compliance with the regulations. Title 46 U.S.C. 364 provides that every coastwise seagoing steam vessel subject to federal navigation laws not sailing under register shall, when under way, be under the control and direction of pilots licensed by the Coast Guard. Title 46 U.S.C. 215 adds that no state government shall impose upon steam vessel pilots any obligation to procure a state license in addition to the federal license, though it is specified that the provision does not affect state requirements for carrying pilots on other than coastwise vessels. 

1. To the extent that 88.16.180 requires enrolled tankers to carry state-licensed pilots, the State is precluded by 46 U.S.C. 215, 364 from imposing its own pilotage requirements and to that extent the state law is invalid. The District Court's judgment was overly broad, however, in invalidating the pilot provision in its entirety, since under both 46 U.S.C. 215 and the PWSA States are free to impose pilotage requirements on registered vessels entering and leaving their ports. Pp. 158-160.

2. Congress in Title II intended uniform national standards for design and construction of tankers that would foreclose the imposition of different or more stringent state requirements, and since the federal scheme aims at precisely the same ends as 88.16.190 (2) of the Tanker Law, the different and higher design requirements of that provision, standing alone, are invalid under the Supremacy Clause. . . .

3. The District Court erred in holding that the alternative tug requirement of 88.16.190 (2) was invalid as conflicting with the PWSA, for the Secretary has not as yet promulgated his own tug requirement for Puget Sound tanker navigation or decided that there should be no such requirement. . . .

4. The exclusion from Puget Sound of any tanker exceeding 125,000 DWT pursuant to 88.16.190 (1) is invalid under the Supremacy Clause in light of Title I and the Secretary's actions thereunder, a conclusion confirmed by the legislative history of Title I which shows that Congress intended that there be a single federal decisionmaker to promulgate limitations on tanker size. . . .

5. The tug-escort requirement does not violate the Commerce Clause. . . . ."  Read the Opinion.

FMC v. PACIFIC MARITIME ASSN., 435 U.S. 40 (1978) 

"Respondent Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), a collective-bargaining agent for a multiemployer bargaining unit composed of various employers of Pacific coast dockworkers, entered into a collective-bargaining agreement with respondent Union regarding nonmember use of dockworkers jointly registered and dispatched through PMA-Union hiring halls whereby the nonmembers would participate in all fringe-benefit programs, pay the same dues and assessments as PMA members, use "steady" men in the same way as members, and be treated as members during work stoppages. Various nonmember public ports, which had previously competitively made separate (and assertedly in several respects more advantageous) agreements with the Union and the PMA, filed a petition with petitioner Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) asserting that the collective-bargaining agreement was subject to filing and approval under 15 of the Shipping Act, 1916 (Act), which requires the filing of agreements between a common carrier by water (or "other person" furnishing facilities in connection with such a carrier) and another such carrier or person, including those agreements "controlling, regulating, preventing, or destroying competition." The FMC is empowered to "disapprove, cancel, or modify" any such agreement that it finds to be unjustly discriminatory or to be detrimental to commerce or the public interest. Before FMC approval or after disapproval agreements subject to filing are unlawful and may not be implemented. Lawful agreements are excepted from the antitrust laws. The FMC severed for initial determination the issues of its jurisdiction over the challenged agreement and whether there were considerations in the national labor policy that would nevertheless exempt the agreement from the filing and approval requirements of 15. The FMC found that the purpose of the agreement was to place nonmembers on the same basis as members of the PMA and that its effect was to control or affect competition between members and nonmembers. Applying the standards articulated in United Stevedoring Corp. v. Boston Shipping Assn., 16 F. M. C. 7, the FMC found the agreement to be outside the protection of an FMC-recognized labor exemption and therefore subject to filing [435 U.S. 40, 41] under 15. The Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that any collective-bargaining agreement, regardless of its impact on competition, was exempt from the 15 filing requirements. Though recognizing that its holding precluded for collective-bargaining agreements the antitrust immunity that 15 approval provides, even in cases where shipping considerations would support an exemption, the court felt its holding necessary to implement the collective-bargaining system established by the federal statutes dealing with labor-management relations, including those in the shipping industry. Alternatively, the court held that if its per se rule was infirm the FMC had erred in refusing to exempt the challenged agreement. 

1. Collective-bargaining agreements as a class are not categorically exempt from 15's filing requirements. . . .

2. The Court of Appeals also erred in its alternative ground of decision that even under a balancing test weighing Shipping Act and labor relations considerations the challenged agreement should be exempt from filing, in support of which view the court suggested that the FMC had failed to realize that the agreement was an effort to force the public ports into a multiemployer bargaining unit against their will, an issue exclusively within the domain of the National Labor Relations Board. Here [435 U.S. 40, 42] there was no effort to change bargaining units but to impose bargaining-unit terms on employers outside the units. . . .
 . . ."  Read the Opinion.



"In 1972 Congress amended the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (Act) to extend coverage to additional workers in an attempt to avoid anomalies inherent in a system that drew lines at the water's edge by allowing compensation under the Act only to workers injured on the seaward side of a pier. The relevant sections, as so amended, broadened the definition of "navigable waters of the United States" as the required situs of a compensable injury to include "any adjoining pier, wharf, dry dock, terminal, building way, marine railway, or other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, or building a vessel," 33 U.S.C. 903 (a) (1970 ed., Supp. V), and also modified the definition of a covered "employee" to mean "any person engaged in maritime employment, including any longshoreman or other person engaged in longshoring operations, and any harbor worker including a ship repairman, shipbuilder, and shipbreaker," 33 U.S.C. 902 (3) (1970 ed., Supp. V). Respondent Blundo, whose job as a "checker" at a pier for petitioner International Terminal Operating Co. was to check and mark cargo being unloaded from a vessel or from a container (a large metal box resembling a truck trailer without wheels) which had been taken off a vessel, was injured when, while marking cargo "stripped" (unloaded) from a container, he slipped on some ice on the pier. Respondent Caputo, who, though a member of a regular stevedoring "gang" for another company, had been temporarily hired by petitioner Northeast Marine Terminal Co. as a trucks, was injured while rolling a dolly loaded with ship's cargo into a consignee's truck. Compensation awards to both respondents under the Act, as amended, were upheld by the Court of Appeals. 

1. Both respondents satisfied the "status" test of eligibility for compensation, since they were both "engaged in maritime employment" and [432 U.S. 249, 250] were therefore "employees" within the meaning of 902 (3) at the time of their injuries. . . . 

2. The injuries of both respondents occurred on a "situs" covered by the Act. . . . "  Read the Opinion.



"Prior to 1960 the Suits in Admiralty Act authorized suit against the United States in cases involving vessels owned by, possessed by, or operated by or for the United States, if such suit could have been maintained had the vessel been a private one, and provided further that such vessel was employed as a merchant vessel. In 1960, Congress amended the Act by deleting the latter proviso. The Public Vessels Act authorizes suit against the United States in cases involving "a public vessel of the United States," but bars such a suit by a foreign national unless it appears that his government allows a United States national to sue in its courts under similar circumstances. Respondent, a Philippine corporation, alleging jurisdiction under both Acts, sued the United States to recover damages resulting from the sinking of its fishing vessel after a collision with a United States naval destroyer. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that since the destroyer was a "public vessel of the United States," the suit was governed by the Public Vessels Act, that therefore respondent was subject to that Act's reciprocity provision, and that since there was no such reciprocity, the suit was barred. The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that the suit, although involving a public vessel, was maintainable under the Suits in Admiralty Act, as amended in 1960 to delete the "employed as a merchant vessel" proviso, free from the restrictions, including the reciprocity requirement, imposed by the Public Vessels Act. 

Claims within the scope of the Public Vessels Act remain subject to its terms after the 1960 amendment to the Suits in Admiralty Act, and, since respondent's claim falls within the Public Vessels Act, the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that that Act's reciprocity provision did not apply. . . ."  Read the Opinion.



"Section 13 of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act provides that the right to compensation for disability under the Act shall be barred unless a claim therefor is filed within one year after the injury. Section 22 provides that, upon his own initiative or upon the application of any party in interest, on the ground of a change in conditions or because of a mistake in his determination of fact, the Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Employees' Compensation (the agency charged with administering the Act) may, "at any time prior to one year after the date of the last payment of compensation, whether or not a compensation order has been issued, or at any time prior to one year after the rejection of a claim," review a compensation case and issue a "new compensation order" which may terminate, continue, reinstate, increase, or decrease such compensation, or award compensation. A claimant, who was injured in 1960 while working for petitioner employer, filed a claim for total permanent disability within 13's one-year statute of limitations. Petitioner insurance carrier, in advance of an award by the Deputy Commissioner, first paid the weekly amount for total disability though denying [422 U.S. 1, 2] the extent of disability, but in 1965 filed notice that it was contesting the extent of disability and was reducing the weekly compensation to the amount for 50% temporary disability, and in 1968 stopped payment of compensation after reaching the maximum of its liability for any condition other than permanent disability or death. In 1970, two years after his last receipt of a voluntary compensation payment, the claimant requested a hearing on his claim for permanent disability, this being the first requested action to adjudicate the merits of the claim by either him or the carrier in the 10 years following the filing of the claim, and no order or award having been entered during this period. Respondent Deputy Commissioner then entered an award for permanent total disability, and petitioners brought suit to enjoin its enforcement. The District Court held that 22 barred the claim, but the Court of Appeals reversed. 

While the language of 22 is ambiguous, the section's legislative history, including the history of the amendment inserting the phrase "whether or not a compensation order has been issued," shows that the section's one-year time limit was meant to apply only to the Deputy Commissioner's power to modify previously entered orders, and that therefore the section does not bar consideration of a claim timely filed under 13, which has not been the subject of prior action by the Deputy Commissioner, and with respect to which the Deputy Commissioner took no action until more than one year after the claimant's last receipt of a voluntary compensation payment. Taken in its historical and statutory context, the phrase "whether or not a compensation order has been issued" is properly interpreted to mean merely that the one-year time limit imposed on the Deputy Commissioner's power to modify existing orders runs from the date of final payment of compensation even if the order sought to be modified is actually entered only after such date."  Read the Opinion.

UNITED STATES v. ALASKA, 422 U.S. 184 (1975)

"Proof held insufficient to establish Cook Inlet as a historic bay, and hence the United States, as against Alaska, has paramount rights to the land beneath the waters of the lower, or seaward, portion of the inlet.Read the Opinion.


"The admiralty rule of divided damages, whereby the property damage in a maritime collision or stranding is equally divided whenever two or more parties involved are found to be guilty of contributory fault, regardless of the relative degree of their fault, held replaced by a rule requiring liability for such damage to be allocated among the parties proportionately to the comparative degree of their fault, and to be allocated equally only when the parties are equally at fault or when it is not possible fairly to measure the comparative degree of their fault."  Read the Opinion.

VELLA v. FORD MOTOR CO., 421 U.S. 1 (1975)

"A shipowner's duty to furnish an injured seaman maintenance and cure continues from the date the seaman leaves the ship to the date when a medical diagnosis is made that his injury was permanent immediately after his accident and therefore incurable."  Read the Opinion.


COOPER STEVEDORING CO. v. KOPKE, INC., 417 U.S. 106 (1974)

"A longshoreman was injured when, while loading a vessel owned by one respondent and time chartered to the other (hereinafter collectively the Vessel), he stepped into a concealed gap between crates which had previously been loaded by petitioner. The longshoreman then sued the Vessel, which filed a third-party complaint against petitioner. The District Court found both the Vessel and petitioner negligent, and divided the liability equally. On petitioner's appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed. 

The award of contribution between joint tortfeasors in a noncollision maritime case was proper under the circumstances. On the facts, no countervailing considerations detract from the well-established maritime rule allowing contribution between joint tortfeasors, since where the longshoreman, not being an employee of petitioner, could have proceeded against either the Vessel or petitioner, or both, and thus could have elected to make petitioner bear its share of the damages, there is no reason why the Vessel should not be accorded the same right. Halcyon Lines v. Haenn Ship Corp., 342 U.S. 282, distinguished."  Read the Opinion.


FMC v. SEATRAIN LINES, INC., 411 U.S. 726 (1973)

"In enacting 15 of the Shipping Act, 1916, Congress conferred on the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) the power to exempt from the antitrust laws agreements, or those portions of agreements, between carriers that create an ongoing arrangement in which both parties undertake continuing responsibilities, and which therefore necessitate continuous FMC supervision, but not one-time acquisition-of-assets agreements that result in one of the contracting parties ceasing to exist." Read the Opinion.


"Florida Oil Spill Prevention and Pollution Control Act, providing for the State's recovery of cleanup costs and imposing strict, no-fault liability on waterfront oil-handling facilities and ships destined for or leaving such facilities for any oil-spill damage to the State or private persons, does not, in the context of this action by shipping interests to enjoin application of the Florida statute, invade a regulatory area pre-empted by the federal Water Quality Improvement Act, which is concerned solely with recovery of actual cleanup costs incurred by the Federal Government, and pre-supposes a coordinated federal-state effort to deal with coastal oil pollution. Nor is the State's police power over sea-to-shore pollution pre-empted by the Admiralty Extension Act, which does not purport to supply an exclusive remedy in this admiralty-related situation. Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205, and Knickerbocker Ice Co. v. Stewart, 253 U.S. 149, distinguished." Read the Opinion.



"Petitioners, invoking federal admiralty jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1333 (1), brought suit for damages resulting from the crashlanding and sinking in the navigable waters of Lake Erie of their jet aircraft shortly after takeoff from a Cleveland airport. The District Court dismissed the complaint for lack of admiralty jurisdiction on the grounds that the alleged tort had neither a maritime locality nor a maritime nexus. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the first ground. 

Neither the fact that an aircraft goes down on navigable waters nor that the negligence "occurs" while the aircraft is flying over such waters is sufficient to confer federal admiralty jurisdiction over aviation tort claims, and in the absence of legislation to the contrary such jurisdiction exists with respect to those claims only when there is a significant relationship to traditional maritime activity. Therefore, federal admiralty jurisdiction does not extend to aviation tort claims arising from flights like the one involved here between points within the continental United States." Read the Opinion.


"Petitioner Unterweser made an agreement to tow respondent's drilling rig from Louisiana to Italy. The contract contained a forum-selection clause providing for the litigation of any dispute in the High Court of Justice in London. When the rig under tow was damaged in a storm, respondent instructed Unterweser to tow the rig to Tampa, the nearest port of refuge. There, respondent brought suit in admiralty against petitioners. Unterweser invoked the forum clause in moving for dismissal for want of jurisdiction and brought suit in the English court, which ruled that it had jurisdiction under the contractual forum provision. The District Court, relying on Carbon Black Export, Inc. v. The Monrosa, 254 F.2d 297, held the forum-selection clause unenforceable, and refused to decline jurisdiction on the basis of forum non conveniens. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 

The forum-selection clause, which was a vital part of the towing contract, is binding on the parties unless respondent can meet the heavy burden of showing that its enforcement would be unreasonable, unfair, or unjust.Read the Opinion.


VICTORY CARRIERS, INC. v. LAW, 404 U.S. 202 (1971)

"State law and not federal maritime law held to govern suit by respondent longshoreman who was injured by alleged defect in his stevedore employer's pier-based forklift truck which respondent was operating on the dock to transfer cargo to a point alongside a vessel where it was to be hoisted aboard by the ship's own gear. Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki, 328 U.S. 85, and Gutierrez v. Waterman S. S. Corp., 373 U.S. 206, distinguished."  Read the Opinion.

CHEVRON OIL CO. v. HUSON, 404 U.S. 97 (1971)

"Respondent was injured in December 1965 while working on petitioner's artificial island drilling rig, located on the Outer Continental Shelf off the Louisiana coast. Allegedly, not until many months later were the injuries discovered to be serious. In January 1968 respondent brought suit or damages against petitioner in federal district court. The District Court, relying on Rodrigue v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 395 U.S. 352 (1969), held that Louisiana's one-year limitation on personal injury actions applied rather than the admiralty laches doctrine, and granted petitioner's motion for summary judgment. Rodrigue had held that state law and not admiralty law applied to fixed structures on the Outer Continental Shelf under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (hereinafter Lands Act), and extended to that area as federal laws the laws of the adjacent State "to the extent that they are applicable and not inconsistent" with federal laws. Respondent argued on appeal that in view of pre-Rodrigue jurisprudence making admiralty law (including the laches doctrine) applicable, it would be unfair to give that decision retrospective effect. The Court of Appeals, not reaching that argument, reversed, holding that Louisiana's "prescriptive" time limitation, which barred the remedy but did not extinguish the right to recovery, was not binding outside a Louisiana forum. Consequently, the court concluded that the time limitation was not "applicable" of its own force and was "inconsistent" with the admiralty laches doctrine, which though not directly applicable by virtue of Rodrigue was applicable as a matter of federal common law. 

1. The Lands Act, as interpreted in Rodrigue, requires that a State's statute of limitations be applied to actions for personal injuries occurring on fixed structures on the Outer Continental Shelf. The fact that the Louisiana law is "prescriptive" does not make it inapplicable as federal law under the Lands Act, and a [404 U.S. 97, 98] federal court may not apply a laches test to preclude application of the state time limitation. . . .

2. The Louisiana one-year statute of limitations should not, however, bar respondent's action here since retroactive application of that statute under Rodrigue would deprive respondent of any remedy at all on the basis of the unforeseeable superseding legal doctrine of that decision."  Read the Opinion.


"Isolated, personal act of negligence by a fellow longshoreman resulting in injury to petitioner did not make shipowner liable on ground of unseaworthiness of vessel, as injury was not caused by ship's condition, appurtenances, cargo, or crew. There is a "complete divorcement of unseaworthiness liability from concepts of negligence." Mitchell v. Trawler Racer, 362 U.S. 539, 550.Read the Opinion.

U.S. BULK CARRIERS v. ARGUELLES, 400 U.S. 351 (1971)

"The enactment of 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, which provides for the enforcement of grievance and arbitration provisions of collective-bargaining agreements in industries affecting commerce, did not abrogate, but merely added an optional remedy to, the remedy of 46 U.S.C. 596, which permits seamen to sue for wages in federal court."  Read the Opinion.



"Petitioner Terminal Association, a maritime terminal operators conference operating under an agreement approved by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), pursuant to 15 of the Shipping Act, 1916, revised a tariff on file with the agency by shifting the incidence of a wharf demurrage charge from consignees to carriers. When several carriers refused to pay the revised charge, which had not previously been approved by the FMC, the Terminal Association sued the association that represented them and their agents (Shipping Association). The District Court stayed the proceedings to allow the Shipping Association to obtain from the FMC a ruling on the validity of the change. After a hearing, the FMC concluded, on June 23, 1967, that its prior approval of the revised tariff was not necessary under 15 of the Act. On September 19, 1967, the Shipping Association filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for review which that court dismissed for lateness. On September 4, 1968, respondent, a carrier that had been assessed charges, made application to the FMC for reconsideration (on the basis of a decision this Court rendered after the FMC's ruling), which the FMC returned as untimely filed under its rules. Thereupon respondent, contending that its agent had inadequately represented it in the proceeding brought by the Shipping Association, sought and was allowed to intervene in the still-pending action in the District Court. That court, concluding that the FMC had primary jurisdiction of the subject matter of the dispute and that the District Court did not have jurisdiction to review the FMC's decision, rendered judgment against the Shipping Association and respondent. Respondent appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed on the merits, after concluding that respondent was not a party to the FMC proceeding and was therefore free to seek independent collateral review in the District Court of that agency's order. 

1. The FMC, the agency responsible under the Shipping Act for supervising conferences of marine terminal operators and [400 U.S. 62, 63] uniquely qualified to consider disputes involving overall conference policies, had primary jurisdiction over the question whether prior administrative approval of the tariff amendment was required. Pp. 68-69.

2. The District Court correctly concluded that it had no authority to review the FMC's decision, which constituted a final order and as such, under the Administrative Orders Review Act, was exclusively reviewable by the Court of Appeals. Pp. 69-71.

3. Respondent, having been represented by its agent in the administrative hearing and having also had every opportunity to participate before the FMC and to seek timely review in the Court of Appeals, cannot collaterally attack the FMC's order. Pp. 71-72.

4. When the case returned to the District Court, the time for review by the Court of Appeals had expired, precluding any judicial review of the FMC decision on the merits. P. 72." Read the Opinion.


"Petitioner is not foreclosed from bringing this action under federal maritime law, based on unseaworthiness, for the wrongful death within state territorial waters of her husband, a longshoreman, as a wrongful-death action under such law is maintainable for breach of maritime duties. The Harrisburg, 119 U.S. 199, overruled." Read the Opinion.

HELLENIC LINES v. RHODITIS, 398 U.S. 306 (1970)

"Respondent, a Greek seaman employed under a Greek contract, sought recovery under the Jones Act for injuries sustained on a ship of Greek registry while in American territorial waters. The vessel is operated by petitioner Greek corporation, which has its largest office in New York and another office in New Orleans, and more than 95% of whose stock is owned by a United States domiciliary, who is a Greek citizen. The income of the ship, which operates between the United States and the Middle East, is from cargo either originating or terminating in the United States. The District Court rendered judgment for respondent. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 

In the totality of the circumstances of this case, which is factually distinguishable from Lauritzen v. Larsen, 345 U.S. 571, the Jones Act is applicable, the alien owner's substantial and continuing contacts with this country outweighing other factors against the Act's applicability here." Read the Opinion.

UNITED STATES v. WEBB, INC., 397 U.S. 179 (1970)

"Respondents owned commercial fishing boats, the fishing being done through oral contractual arrangements with boat captains who staffed and provisioned the boats and managed their day-to-day operation. The captains, without an earnings guarantee if they failed to catch fish, agreed to make fishing trips for the season and to return the catches to plants designated by respondents. The plants paid respondents according to the volume of the catch and respondents paid the captains and crews on the same basis according to previously negotiated terms. Respondents filed tax returns as employers under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), and paid the employer's share of the taxes due on the earnings of the captains and crews. Those statutes define "employee" as any individual who has employee status under "the usual common law rules" applicable to a determination of the master-servant relationship. Respondents, after making refund claims, sued for refunds in the District Court, which determined that the captains and crews were not respondents' employees under those statutes, holding that the statutes' prescription of "common law rules" barred application of maritime standards. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 

Held: The status of the captains and crews under the FICA and FUTA must, in this instance, be determined under the standards of maritime law, which is the common law of seafaring men." Read the Opinion.

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