Langnes v. Green
282 U.S. 531 (1931)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Langnes v. Green, 282 U.S. 531 (1931)

Langnes v. Green

No. 38

Argued January 7, 8, 1931

Decided February 24, 1931

282 U.S. 531

Syllabus

1. In a proceeding by a ship owner to limit liability under R.S. §§ 4283-4285, as against a claim of damages for personal injury, the question whether the injury was occasioned with his privity and knowledge is not jurisdictional, but appertains to the merits of his petition. P. 282 U. S. 534.

2. Upon renew of a decree of the circuit court of appeals in an admiralty case, a respondent in certiorari, though he did not cross-petition for the writ, may seek to sustain the decree upon a ground which the court below rejected, as well as upon that which it accepted. P. 282 U. S. 535.

3. Where a ship owner, in a petition in the district court to limit liability under R.S. §§ 4283-4285, though alleging fear of other claims, set up none except an action for personal injuries which was then pending, on the eve of trial, in a state court, and where the nature of the accident and other circumstances of the case were such as to give rise to the presumption that no other claims existed and reflect doubt upon the allegation that others were feared,

Held:

(1) That the state court had jurisdiction of the action, under Jud.Code, § 24(3) and, in the exercise of its common law powers therein, was competent to entertain a claim of the ship owner for limitation of liability and afford him appropriate relief under the federal statute dealing with that subject. P. 282 U. S. 539.

(2) The district court also had jurisdiction of the petition before it, but to be exercised in accordance with a sound discretion with regard to what was right and equitable. P. 282 U. S. 540.

(3) Sound discretion required that the district court permit the action in the state court to proceed, so that the claimant's right to a common law remedy might not be destroyed, retaining, however, the petition for limited liability to be dealt with if the petitioner's right to such limitation were brought in question in the state court, or if the case otherwise assumed such form in that court as to bring it within the exclusive power of a court of admiralty. P. 282 U. S. 541.

Page 282 U. S. 532

(4) In restraining the state court action and in adjudicating for itself the question of liability, the district court committed an abuse of discretion reviewable by the circuit court of appeals and by this Court. P. 282 U. S. 541.

35 F.2d 447 reversed.

Certiorari, 281 U.S. 708, to review a decree which reversed a decree of the district court, 32 F.2d 284, in a proceeding in admiralty to limit liability. The district court adjudicated the claim against the petitioning shipowner upon the merits and in his favor. The court below directed that the petition be reversed for want of jurisdiction.

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