1. The work of a stevedore whilst engaged in unloading a vessel
at dock is maritime in character, although it consumes but part of
his time under his employment, the remainder being devoted to work
ashore. P. 278 U. S.
2. A stevedore having been killed while at work on a vessel at
dock unloading cargo for the consignee, the cause of action against
Page 278 U. S. 143
employer for the death was governed by the Merchant Marine Act
-- the stevedore was a " seaman " within that Act -- and the state
compensation law cannot apply. P. 278 U. S.
193 Wis. 515, reversed.
Certiorari, 276 U.S. 611, to a judgment of the Supreme Court of
Wisconsin sustaining an award under the state Workmen's
MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner, the Northern Coal & Dock Company, an Ohio
corporation, whose business is mining, hauling, and selling coal,
maintained a dock on Superior Bay, Wisconsin, where it received and
unloaded coal brought by vessels from other Lake ports. It employed
regularly some 18 men, who worked upon the dock or went upon
vessels made fast thereto and unloaded them, as directed. Charles
Strand was one of those so employed. October 10, 1924, while on the
steamer Matthew Andrews
assisting, as his duties required,
in the discharge of her cargo, he was struck by the clamshell and
Respondent Emma Strand, the widow, asked the Industrial
Commission of Wisconsin for an award of death benefits against the
petitioners employer and insurance carrier.
Page 278 U. S. 144
It found that both Strand and his employer were subject to the
state Compensation Act (St. Wis.1925, § 102.01 et seq.
and awarded benefits. To review this ruling, petitioners brought an
action in the Dane County Circuit Court. That court sustained the
award, and the state supreme court approved its action.
Strand's employment contemplated that he should labor both upon
the land and the water. When killed, he was doing longshore or
stevedore work on a vessel lying in navigable waters, according to
his undertaking. His employment, so far as it pertained to such
work, was maritime; the tort was maritime, and the rights of the
parties must be ascertained upon a consideration of the maritime
law. Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.
, 244 U. S. 217
Washington v. W. C. Dawson & Co., 264 U.
. Originally, that law afforded no remedy for
damages arising from death; but we have held that it might be
supplemented by state death statutes, which prescribe remedies
capable of enforcement in court. Western Fuel Co. v.
Garcia, 257 U. S. 233
257 U. S. 242
We have also held that state statutes providing compensation for
employees through commission might be treated as amending or
modifying the maritime law in cases where they concern purely local
matters and occasion no interference with the uniformity of such
law in its international and interstate relations. Grant
Smith-Porter Ship Co. v. Rohde, 257 U.
; Millers' Underwriters v. Braud,
270 U. S. 59
270 U. S. 64
Smith & Son v. Taylor, 276 U.
The unloading of a ship is not matter of purely local concern.
It has direct relation to commerce and navigation, and uniform
rules in respect thereto are essential. The fact that Strand worked
for the major portion of the time upon land is unimportant. He was
upon the water in pursuit of his maritime duties when the accident
Page 278 U. S. 145
Chap. 331, Wisconsin Stats.1923 (§ 331.03, 1925 Stats.),
provides for recovery of damages arising from death caused by
wrongful act, neglect, or default. The same statutes (§§ 102.01,
102.02, 102.03, 102.04, and 102.05, et seq.
) deprive the
employer in personal injury cases of any defense based upon
assumption of risk, negligence of fellow servants, or contributory
negligence (not willful), unless he has elected to pay compensation
in the manner specified, and direct that no contract, rule, or
regulation shall relieve him from this restriction; also that,
where both employer and employee are subject to the provisions of
the act, the liability for compensation therein provided shall be
in lieu of all other. One who employers three or more workers is
declared to have elected to be subject to the act unless he has
indicated the contrary, and generally, where he has not given
notice to the contrary, an employee is subject to the act whenever
the employer is.
There is nothing in the record to indicate that, when
contracting with its stevedores, the Dock Company actually agreed
to subject itself to the liabilities imposed by the state
compensation act. And it is enough here to say that the state had
no power to impose upon an employer liabilities of that kind in
respect of men engaged to perform the work of stevedores on
The Act of March 30, 1920, 41 Stat. 537, which provides that the
personal representative may sue whenever death may be caused by
wrongful act, neglect, or default on the high seas, is mentioned in
the opinion below, but we think it has no bearing upon the present
Section 33 of "An act to provide for the promotion and
maintenance of the American merchant marine, to repeal certain
emergency legislation," etc. -- Jones, or Merchant Marine, Act --
approved June 5, 1920, 41 Stat.
Page 278 U. S. 146
1007, amends § 20, Act of March 4, 1915 to read as follows:
"Sec. 20. That any seaman who shall suffer personal injury in
the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an
action for damages at law, with the right of trial by jury, and in
such action all statutes of the United States modifying or
extending the common law right or remedy in cases of personal
injury to railway employees shall apply, and in case of the death
of any seaman as a result of any such personal injury, the personal
representative of such seaman may maintain an action for damages at
law with the right of trial by jury, and in such action all
statutes of the United States conferring or regulating the right of
action for death in the case of railway employees shall be
applicable. Jurisdiction in such actions shall be under the court
of the district in which the defendant employer resides or in which
his principal office is located."
In International Stevedoring Co. v. Haverty,
272 U. S. 50
272 U. S. 52
plaintiff, a longshoreman, while at work in the hold of a vessel at
dock, suffered serious injury through negligence. He sued the
employer for damages in the state court and recovered. This Court
affirmed the judgment and ruled that, within the intendment of the
Merchant Marine Act: "Seaman' is to be taken to include
stevedores employed in maritime work on navigable waters, as the
New York Central R. Co. v. Winfield,
effect of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, c. 149, 35 Stat.
65, and c. 143, 36 Stat. 291, upon the former right of employees to
recover under the laws of the states. That act provides that every
interstate carrier by railroad
"shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while
he is employed by such carrier in such commerce, or, in case of the
death of such employee, to his or her personal representative, for
the benefit of the surviving
Page 278 U. S. 147
widow or husband and children of such employee; and, if none,
then of such employee's parents; and, if none, then of the next of
kin dependent upon such employee, for such injury or death
resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the
officers, agents, or employees of such carrier,"
We held "the act is comprehensive and also exclusive," and
denied the right of an employee of an interstate carrier to recover
under a state statute even in respect of injuries suffered without
fault as to which the federal act provides no remedy.
Panama R. Co. v. Johnson, 264 U.
, ruled that § 20, Act of March 4, 1915, as
amended by the Merchant Marine Act, incorporated the Federal
Employers' Liability Act into the maritime law of the United
States. See Engel v. Davenport, 271 U. S.
, 271 U. S.
We think it necessarily follows from former decisions that, by
the Merchant Marine Act, a measure of general application, Congress
provided a method under which the widow of Strand might secure
damages resulting from his death, and that no state statute can
provide any other or different one. See Partrone v. M. P.
237 N.Y. 394.
The judgment of the court below must be reversed, and the cause
remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this
Concurring opinion of MR. JUSTICE STONE.
I concur in the result. As the majority have placed their
conclusion, in part at least, on the grounds that a stevedore,
while working on a ship in navigable waters, is a "seaman" within
the meaning of the Jones Act, International Stevedoring Co. v.
Haverty, 272 U. S. 50
that, by the Jones Act, Congress has occupied the field and
excluded all state legislation having application within it, I am
content to rest the case there. Similar effect has
Page 278 U. S. 148
been given to the Federal Employers' Liability Act. N.Y.
Central R. Co. v. Winfield, 244 U. S. 147
But I should have found it difficult to say that the present
case is controlled by the maritime law, and so to suggest that
workmen otherwise in the situation of the respondent, but who are
not seamen and therefore are not given a remedy by the Jones Act,
are excluded from the benefits of a compensation act like that of
The state act here is contractual, as we have held in Booth
Fisheries Co. v. Industrial Comm'n, 271 U.
, and the employer is bound to pay compensation in
accordance with the schedules of the act because the parties have
agreed that they shall apply, rather than the common or any other
applicable law. The employer, a wholesale coal dealer, owned or
controlled no ships and, except that it owned a dock at which coal
was delivered to it from ships, had no connection with maritime
affairs. The employee's regular work was nonmaritime, and he spent
but two percent of his time unloading his employer's coal from
ships. To me it would seem that the rights of parties who have thus
stipulated for the benefits of a state statute in an essentially
nonmaritime employment are not on any theory controlled by the
maritime law or within the purview of Southern Pacific Co. v.
Jensen, 244 U. S. 205
Knickerbocker Ice Co. v. Stewart, 253 U.
; Washington v. W. C. Dawson & Co.,
264 U. S. 219
Nor would it seem that resort by an employee only casually
working on a ship, through such a nonmaritime stipulation, to a
state remedy not against the ship or its owner, but against the
employer engaged in a nonmaritime pursuit is anything more than a
local matter, or would impair the uniformity of maritime law in its
international or interstate relations. Grant Smith-Porter Ship
Co. v. Rohde, 257 U. S. 469
Millers' Underwriters v. Braud, 270 U. S.
. Recovery in a state court upon an
Page 278 U. S. 149
insurance policy upon the life of a seaman for death occurring
on a ship on the high seas while in the performance of his duties
would not, I suppose, be deemed to have that effect or be precluded
by the admiralty law, even though some of the provisions of the
policy were imposed by state statute.
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES and MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS concur in this