Petty v. Tennessee-Missouri Bridge Comm'n
359 U.S. 275 (1959)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Petty v. Tennessee-Missouri Bridge Comm'n, 359 U.S. 275 (1959)

Petty v. Tennessee-Missouri Bridge Commission

No. 233

Argued March 4, 1959

Decided April 20, 1959

359 U.S. 275

Syllabus

Petitioner sued in a Federal District Court to recover under the Jones Act for the death of her husband while working aboard a Mississippi River ferryboat owned by respondent, an agency of the States of Tennessee and Missouri created by a compact entered into between them with the consent of Congress. The compact authorizes respondent "to sue and be sued," and the Act of Congress approving it provides that it shall not be construed

"to affect, impair, or diminish any right, power or jurisdiction of . . . any court . . . of the United States, over or in regard to any navigable waters, or any commerce between the States."

Held:

1. By entering into the compact and acting under it after Congressional approval, the States waived whatever immunity from a suit such as this in a federal court respondent, as their agency, might have enjoyed under the Eleventh Amendment. Pp. 359 U. S. 276-282.

(a) The construction of a compact sanctioned by Congress under Art. I, § 10, cl. 3, of the Constitution presents a federal question over which this Court has the final say. Pp. 359 U. S. 278-279.

(b) Congress approved the "sue and be sued" clause in the compact here involved under conditions that make it clear that the States accepting it waived any immunity from suit which they otherwise might have had. Pp. 359 U. S. 279-280.

(c) The above-quoted proviso in the Act of Congress approving the compact, read in the light of the "sue and be sued" clause in the compact, reserves the jurisdiction of the federal courts to act in any matter arising under the compact over which they would have jurisdiction by virtue of the fact that the Mississippi is a navigable stream and that interstate commerce is involved. Pp. 359 U. S. 280-282.

2. Respondent, as a bi-state corporation, is not excepted from the term "employer" as used in the Jones Act. Pp. 359 U. S. 282-283.

254 F.2d 857 reversed.

Page 359 U. S. 276

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