Hamburg v. American Steamship Co. v. Grube
196 U.S. 407 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hamburg v. American Steamship Co. v. Grube, 196 U.S. 407 (1905)

Hamburg v. American Steamship Company v. Grube

No. 411

Submitted January 16, 1905

Decided February 20, 1905

196 U.S. 407

Syllabus

The agreement of September 16, 1833, between New York and New Jersey, confirmed by Act of Congress of June 28, 1834, 4 Stat. 708, did not vest exclusive jurisdiction in the federal government over the sea adjoining those states, neither of which abdicated any rights to the United States.

Although, when the charge of the state court is not before this Court, and the record contains no exception to any part of it, the verdict and judgment must be held to have been rendered according to law, nevertheless, if a provision of the federal Constitution was properly invoked, the motion to dismiss may be denied.

The act of the Legislature of New Jersey of March 12, 1846, under which the jurisdiction of the United States over Sandy Hook is derived, is merely one of cession, and does not purport to transfer jurisdiction over the littoral waters beyond low water mark.

This action was brought in the Supreme Court of New York by Minnie Grube, as administratrix of John Grube, against the Hamburg American Steamship Company, to recover damages for his death, under the statute of New Jersey in that behalf occasioned by the sinking of the James Gordon Bennett, a vessel owned by a New Jersey corporation, by the steamship Alene, belonging to the steamship company. There was a conflict of evidence as to the place of the collision, evidence being given, on the one hand, that it occurred in waters beyond the three-mile limit of the coast of the State of New Jersey, and, on the other, that it occurred within the three-mile limit along that coast.

The record discloses no instructions to the jury requested by defendant below, and no exceptions were taken by it to the charge of the court, which was not included in the bill of exceptions or case made.

Page 196 U. S. 408

Defendant moved the court to direct a verdict in its favor upon the following grounds:

"Defendant claims the right, under the statute of the United States confirming and approving the agreement as to boundaries between the State of New York and the State of New Jersey, to be free in navigating the main sea to the eastward of Sandy Hook Peninsula, from the operation of any law of the State of New Jersey giving a right of action for injuries causing death, and claims that, under the statutes aforesaid, the jurisdiction of that state extends only to the main sea -- that is to say, low water mark along its exterior coast line -- and to a line drawn from headland to headland across the entrance to the bay of New York. It therefore asks the court to direct the jury to return a verdict for the defendant on the ground that it appears by uncontradicted evidence that the collision between the steamship Alene and the schooner James Gordon Bennett, to recover damages for which this suit is brought, occurred upon the main sea and to the eastward of the Sandy Hook Peninsula, and at a distance of more than a mile to the eastward of low water mark upon the exterior line thereof."

"Defendant claims the right, by reason of the purchase by the United States of the Sandy Hook Peninsula, and the cession to the United States by the State of New Jersey of jurisdiction over the same, and the long continued use of that peninsula, and of the main sea to the eastward of it, for military purposes, to be free in navigating the main sea to the eastward of that peninsula from the operation of any law of the State of New Jersey, giving a right of action for injuries causing death, and claims that the main sea to the eastward of said peninsula to a distance of three miles from the shore is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States. It therefore asks the court to direct the jury to return a verdict for the defendant on the ground that it appears by uncontradicted evidence that the collision between the steamship Alene and the schooner James Gordon Bennett, to recover damages for which

Page 196 U. S. 409

this suit is brought, occurred upon the main sea and to the eastward of the Sandy Hook Peninsula, and at a distance of more than a mile to the eastward of low water mark, upon the exterior line thereof."

The court denied the motion, and defendant excepted. The jury found a general verdict for plaintiff below, and assessed the damages. Judgment was entered thereon, which was affirmed by the appellate division of the supreme court, and a writ of error from the Court of Appeals was denied. This writ of error was then allowed, and the case submitted on motions to dismiss or affirm.

Page 196 U. S. 413

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