Sloan Shipyards Corp. v. U.S. Fleet Corp.
258 U.S. 549 (1922)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sloan Shipyards Corp. v. U.S. Fleet Corp., 258 U.S. 549 (1922)

Sloan Shipyards Corporation v. United States

Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation

Nos. 308, 376, 526

Argued March 15, 16, 1922

Decided May 1, 1922

258 U.S. 549

Syllabus

1. The Emergency Fleet Corporation, as originally created, had the powers of corporations under the laws of the District of Columbia, where it was incorporated, and was liable to be sued, there and

Page 258 U. S. 550

elsewhere, upon its contracts and for its torts notwithstanding the fact that it was a federal agency and that its stock was taken entirely by the United States. P. 258 U. S. 565.

2. The extensive increase of the powers of this corporation made by later acts and by delegation from the President of large powers granted him by Congress did not render the corporation in all cases immune to private suit. P. 258 U. S. 566.

3. A bill alleged that the Fleet Corporation, having contracted, May 18, 1917, with a shipbuilding company for the construction of vessels, on December l, 1917, unlawfully took possession of the property of the company and its subsidiaries and compelled it to make another contract, which the bill sought to set aside, praying also for restoration of the properties, an accounting under the earlier contract and other relief.

Held:

(a) That the bill stated a cause of action against the Fleet Corporation, cognizable by a district court, since

(b) It could not be assumed from the allegations that the taking was in pursuance of powers which had been delegated to the Fleet Corporation by the President, directly or through the Shipping Board, when the taking occurred, or that it was within the ratification of past acts of the Fleet Corporation made by the Executive Order of December 3, 1918; and, consequently,

(c) It did not appear that the special remedies of payment by and suit against the United States in the Court of Claims, for plants taken by the President, were applicable to the case. P. 258 U. S. 567.

4. The Fleet Corporation is liable to be sued for its unlawful acts, even if a remedy also exists by suit against the United States. P. 258 U. S. 567.

5. The general immunity of the United States to actions for torts does not extend to those who act in its name. P. 258 U. S. 568.

6. The provision in the general incorporation law of the District of Columbia (Code D.C. § 607) that corporations formed under it may sue and be sued in the District does not mean that they may not be sued elsewhere. P. 258 U. S. 568.

7. A contract made by the Fleet Corporation "representing the United States of America" is the contract of the Corporation, and subject to be set aside in a suit against it if wrongfully brought about. P. 258 U. S. 568.

8. Transfer of the property of the Fleet Corporation to the Shipping Board by the Act of June 5, 1920, c. 250, § 4, 41 Stat. 988, did not affect the jurisdiction to entertain the present suits. P. 258 U. S. 568.

Page 258 U. S. 551

9. A suit against the Fleet Corporation is removable from a state to a federal court. P. 258 U. S. 569.

10. The Fleet Corporation held suable in a state court for breach of a contract executed by it February 1, 1919, as a corporation of the District of Columbia "representing the United States of America" in which certain necessities and rights of the United States were recognized, but in which the Corporation was recognized throughout as the immediate party contracting. P. 258 U. S. 569.

11. A claim in bankruptcy made by the Fleet Corporation in its own name as an instrument of the government is not entitled to preference as a claim of the United States. P. 258 U. S. 570.

268 F. 624, 272 F. 132, 270 F. 635, reversed. 274 F. 893 affirmed.

The first of these cases is an appeal from a decree of the district court dismissing on motion, for want of jurisdiction, a bill against the Fleet Corporation (the general nature of the bill is described in the third headnote) upon the ground that the suit, involving more than $10,000, must be brought in the Court of Claims. The second is a writ of error to a judgment of the district court which, upon the same ground, sustained a demurrer to the petition in an action for breach of contract brought against the Fleet Corporation, originally in a court of the state. The third comes here by certiorari to an order of the circuit court of appeals affirming one of the district court denying preference to a claim made by the Fleet Corporation in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Page 258 U. S. 564

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