HomeSupreme Court Admiralty Cases1980-1989

The following are digests and links to Supreme Court cases concerning admiralty and maritime law issued during the period 1980 through 1989.

1980 - 1981 - 1982 - 1983 - 1985 - 1986 - 1987 - 1989


Chesapeake & Ohio R. Co. v. Schwalb, 493 U.S. 40 (1989)
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: since employment that is maritime within the meaning of 33 U.S.C. 902(3) includes not only the specified occupations or employees who physically handle cargo, but also land-based activity occurring within the relevant situs if it is an integral or essential part of loading or unloading a vessel, employees who are injured while maintaining or repairing equipment essential to the loading or unloading process are covered by the Act. 

Lauro Lines S.R.L. v. Chasser, 490 U.S. 495 (1989)
Procedure: an interlocutory order denying a defendant's motion to dismiss a damages action on the basis of a contractual forum-selection clause is not immediately appealable under 1291. Such an order is not final in the usual sense, for it does not end the litigation on the merits but, on the contrary, ensures that the litigation will continue. 

Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Shipping, 488 U.S. 428 (1989)
Foreign Sovereign Immunity: the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA") provides the sole basis for obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign state in United States courts, and the District Court correctly dismissed the action because the FSIA did not authorize jurisdiction over the petitioner Argentine Republic where it is alleged that it attacked and severely damaged a crude oil tanker owned by respondent in international waters during the war between Great Britain and petitioner Argentine Republic over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). 

Welch v. Texas Highways & Public Transportation Dept., 483 U.S. 468 (1987)
Jones Act/Procedure (State Sovereign Immunity): Congress has not expressed in unmistakable statutory language its intention to allow States to be sued in federal court under the Jones Act. Although the Act extends to "[a]ny" injured seaman, this general authorization is not the kind of unequivocal statutory language that is sufficient to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment, which marks a constitutional distinction between the States and other employers of seamen.

Offshore Logistics, Inc. v. Tallentire, 477 U.S. 207 (1986)
Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA"): neither the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act ("OCSLA") nor DOHSA requires or permits the application of the Louisiana wrongful death statute in this case so as to entitle respondents to recover nonpecuniary damages under that statute.

East River S. S. Co. v. Transamerica Delaaval, 476 U.S. 858 (1986)
Products Liability: admiralty law, which already recognizes a general theory of liability for negligence, also incorporates principles of products liability, including strict liability. But whether stated in negligence or strict liability, no products-liability claim lies in admiralty when a commercial party alleges injury only to the product itself resulting in purely economic loss. Such a claim is most naturally understood as a warranty claim. 

NLRB v. International Longshoremen's Assoc., 473 U.S. 61 (1985)
Labor Law:  the Rules on Containers, which require that some cargo containers owned or leased by marine shipping companies that otherwise would be loaded or unloaded within the local port area (defined as anywhere within a 50-mile radius of the port) instead must be loaded or unloaded by longshoremen at the pier, do not constitute unlawful "work acquisition" under the National Labor Relations Act.

Herbs' Welding, Inc. v. Gray, 470 U.S. 414 (1985)
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act provides compensation for the death or disability of any person engaged in "maritime employment" (status requirement), if the disability or
death results from an injury incurred upon the navigable waters of the United States or any adjoining pier or other area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, or building a vessel (situs requirement). Respondent
Gray, who was injured while welding a gas flow line on a fixed offshore oil-drilling platform in Louisiana territorial waters, does not qualify for benefits under the LHWCA because his employment was not "maritime." 

Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. v. Pfeifer, 462 U.S. 523 (1983)
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: a longshoreman may bring a negligence action under 33 U.S.C. 905(b) against the owner of a vessel who acts as his own stevedore, even though the longshoreman has received compensation from the owner-employer under 33 U.S.C. 904. The plain language of 905(a), which provides that the liability of an employer for compensation prescribed in 904 "shall be exclusive and in place of all other liability of such an employer to the employee," appears to support petitioner's contention that since, as respondent's employer, it had paid compensation to him under 904, 905(a) absolves it of all other responsibility to respondent for damages. But such contention is undermined by the plain language of 905(b), which authorizes a longshoreman whose injury is caused by the negligence of a vessel to bring a separate action against such a vessel as a third party, unless the injury was caused by the negligence of persons engaged in providing stevedoring services to the vessel.

Pallas Shipping Shipping Agency, LTD. v. Duris, 461 U.S. 529 (1983)
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: respondent's acceptance of voluntary compensation payments did not constitute acceptance of compensation "under an award in a compensation order" so as to give rise to the assignment of his claims against third parties under 33 U.S.C. 933(b).

Florida Dept. of State v. Treasure Salvors, Inc., 458 U.S. 670 (1982)
Maritime Arrest/Procedure (State Sovereign Immunity)/Salvage: the Eleventh Amendment did not bar the warrant of arrest issued by the District Court to secure possession of the artifacts of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a 17th-century Spanish galleon, held by Florida state officials. The relief sought by respondents is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment but is consistent with the principles of Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 . The warrant of arrest sought possession of specific property. It did not seek any attachment of state funds and would impose no burden on the state treasury. And respondents are not asserting a claim for damages against either the State or its officers.

Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc., 458 U.S. 564 (1982)
Labor Law: district courts have no discretion to limit the period during which the seaman's wage penalty is assessed against an owner. Imposition of the penalty is mandatory for each day that wages are withheld from a seaman in violation of 596.

Foremost Insurance Co. v. Richardson, 457 U.S. 668 (1982)
Admiralty Jurisdiction: in light of the need for uniform rules governing navigation, the potential impact on maritime commerce when two vessels collide on navigable waters, and the uncertainty and confusion that would necessarily accompany a jurisdictional test tied to the commercial use of a given boat, a complaint alleging a collision between two vessels - including pleasure boats - on navigable waters properly states a claim within the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts.

Rodriguez v. Compass Shipping Co., 451 U.S. 596 (1981)
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: section 33 (b) of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act precludes petitioners from pursuing their third-party claims against respondent shipowners more than six months after having accepted compensation under an award from their respective stevedore employers. Those rights against the shipowners had been fully assigned to the stevedore employers after passage of the six-month period. 

Scindia Steam Navigation Co. v. De Los Santos, 451 U.S. 156 (1981)
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: a shipowner has a duty to have the ship and its equipment in such condition that the stevedore may carry on its cargo operations with reasonable safety; and if the shipowner fails at least to warn the stevedore of a hidden danger which was known to the shipowner, or should have been known to him in the exercise of reasonable care, he is liable if his negligence causes injury to a longshoreman. 

Sun Ship, Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 447 U.S. 715 (1980)
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: a State may apply its workers' compensation scheme to landbased injuries that fall within the coverage of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. 

NLRB v. International Longshoremen's Assoc., 447 U.S. 490 (1980)
Labor Law: whether the Rules on Containers (Rules) in a collective-bargaining agreement between the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and employer organizations in the shipping industry that were adopted in response to the technological innovation of containerized shipping are a lawful work preservation agreement is to be decided on remand. Viewing the work allegedly to be preserved by the Rules from the proper perspective, the Board on remand will be free to determine whether the Rules represent a lawful attempt to preserve traditional longshore work, or whether, instead, they are tactically calculated to satisfy union goals elsewhere. 

American Export Lines, Inc. v. Alvez, 446 U.S. 274 (1980)
Maritime Torts: general maritime law authorizes the wife of a harbor worker injured nonfatally aboard a vessel in state territorial waters to maintain an action for damages for the loss of her husband's society. 

Bloomer v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 445 U.S. 74 (1980)
Longhsore & Harbor Workers' Act: a stevedore's lien for the amount of its compensation payment to an injured longshoreman under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act against the longshoreman's recovery in a negligence action against the shipowner may not be reduced by an amount representing the stevedore's proportionate share of the longshoreman's legal expenses in obtaining recovery from the shipowner.

Seatrain Shipbuilding Co. v. Shell Oil Co., 444 U.S. 572 (1980)
Government Regulation: petitioners received a construction-differential subsidy ("CDS") under Title V of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, to construct a supertanker, and as required by the Act, agreed to operate it exclusively in foreign trade except as otherwise authorized. When the vessel was completed, petitioners asked
the Secretary of Commerce to terminate all restrictions on the vessel's operation in domestic trade in exchange for their fully secured note repaying in full the vessel's CDS. The Secretary properly granted their application since the Act empowers the Secretary to approve full-repayment/permanent-release transactions of the type at issue here.

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