Weyerhaeuser S.S. Co. v. Nacirema Operating Co., Inc. - 355 U.S. 563 (1958)
U.S. Supreme Court
Weyerhaeuser S.S. Co. v. Nacirema Operating Co., Inc., 355 U.S. 563 (1958)
Weyerhaeuser Steamship Co. v. Nacirema Operating Co., Inc.
Argued January 6, 1958
Decided March 3, 1958
355 U.S. 563
A stevedoring company, which had contracted to unload a vessel in New York and Boston, permitted its Boston employees to use, without inspection, a temporary shelter erected by it in New York but not removed by the shipowner upon sailing for Boston. A longshoreman injured by a board which fell from the shelter sued the shipowner on claim of negligence and unseaworthiness. The shipowner impleaded the stevedoring company, claiming a right to indemnity. A jury in the main case found for the longshoreman on the issue of negligence and for the shipowner on the issue of seaworthiness, and the longshoreman was awarded a judgment against the shipowner. Concluding that the jury's verdict was also dispositive of the third-party action, the judge directed a verdict for the stevedoring company.
Held: the liability of the stevedoring company depended on principles different from those governing the liability of the shipowner; all issues of fact involved in the third-party action should have been submitted to the jury; and the court erred in directing a verdict for the stevedoring company based on the finding for the longshoreman. Pp. 355 U. S. 564-569.
(a) The stevedoring company's contractual obligation to perform its duties with reasonable safety related not only to the handling of the cargo, but also to the use of equipment incidental thereto, such as the shelter involved here. P. 355 U. S. 567.
(b) If, in that regard, the stevedoring company rendered a substandard performance which led to foreseeable liability of the shipowner, the latter was entitled to indemnity, absent conduct on its part sufficient to preclude recovery. P. 355 U. S. 567.
(c) The evidence bearing on these issues was for jury consideration under appropriate instructions, and these issues were not encompassed by the instructions in the main case. Pp. 355 U. S. 567-568.
(d) Since the liability of the stevedoring company depended on principles different from those governing liability of the shipowner, all issues of fact involved in the third-party case should have been submitted to the jury after the verdict in the main case. P. 355 U. S. 568568.
(e) The verdict for the longshoreman did not ipso facto preclude recovery of indemnity by the shipowner. Pp. 355 U. S. 568-569.
(f) In the area of contractual indemnity, an application of the theories of "active" or "passive," as well as "primary" or "secondary" negligence, is inappropriate. P. 355 U. S. 569.
236 F.2d 848 reversed and remanded.