1. When sued for damages in a state court, a shipowner is not
obliged to submit to that court his claim for limitation of
liability even when there is only one owner and one claim against
him. P. 292 U. S.
2. The right to limit liability is not waived by failing to set
it up in a state court. Id.
Page 292 U. S. 21
3. Statutory provisions for limitation of liability should be
construed liberally to effectuate their purpose. P. 292 U. S.
4. A judgment is not conclusive of those matters as to which a
party had the option to litigate but did not in fact do so. P.
292 U. S. 25
66 F.2d 651 affirmed.
Certiorari, 290 U.S. 624, to review the reversal of a decree
dismissing a petition to limit liability.
MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
For personal injuries negligently inflicted, petitioner Larsen
sought judgment in the superior court, King county, Wash., against
respondent transportation company, alleged owner and operator of
motor ship Norco.
The complaint contained no reference to
other claimants or creditors. The company made general denial; also
set up contributory negligence and assumption of risk. It said
nothing concerning any other creditor or claimant or desire to
After verdict, September 22, 1932, judgment for $12,500 against
the company followed, October 1. It then petitioned the United
States District Court for limitation of liability. The petition
recited the circumstances leading to the judgment, prayed for an
appraisement of the company's interest as charterer and the pending
freight, monition against all persons claiming damages, an
Larsen moved to dismiss this petition because: the facts alleged
are not sufficient.
"There is only one possible claimant and one charterer of the
motor vessel Norco,
and therefore the petitioner might
have claimed and obtained
Page 292 U. S. 22
the advantage and benefit of the limitation of liability statute
by proper pleading in the action which has been determined in the
Superior Court of the Washington for King County. . . . The
petitioner failed and refused to claim the advantage and benefit of
the limitation of liability statute, in said Superior Court of the
Washington, and thereby waived its right to claim and obtain the
advantage and benefit of said statute."
The trial court sustained this motion and dismissed the
petition; the Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. The cause is here
by certiorari granted upon Larsen's application which set out the
following specifications of error:
Langnes v. Green, 282 U. S. 531
Ex parte Green, 286 U. S. 437
were misconstrued; it was wrongly held that the District Court,
sitting in admiralty, has exclusive jurisdiction to determine all
questions involved in a proceeding for the limitation of liability
where there is only one claimant and only one owner, and where the
owner's right to limit liability is not disputed. It was wrongly
held that the state court had no jurisdiction to entertain the
claim of the shipowner for limitation of liability where there is
only one claimant and only one owner, and where the owner's right
to limit liability was not disputed. Also that, in such cases, the
shipowner was under no obligation to submit his claim to limited
liability to the state court, and the judgment of the state court
was not res judicata
as to all issues which might have
been submitted for its decision.
In substance, the argument here presented for petitioner is
this: prior to Langnes v. Green
and Ex parte
decisions by inferior federal courts undoubtedly
sustained the view that, while the state court might have
determined the value of respondent's interest in vessel and pending
freight and limited liability thereto, it was not
Page 292 U. S. 23
obligatory upon it to claim such limitation there, and, after
judgment for damages, the right remained to institute limitation
proceedings in the federal court. But those opinions have affirmed
another view, and clearly establish that the state court had
jurisdiction and was competent finally to consider all necessary
facts and limit the liability. Consequently, after the adverse
judgment, respondent could not seek limitation elsewhere; it was
bound to present the whole matter to the state court.
We think it true to say that, before Langnes v. Green
and Ex parte Green,
the commonly approved doctrine
permitted a shipowner, even when there was only one claimant, to
seek limitation of liability in a federal court after judgment
against him for damages by a state court. And, unless those cases
are to the contrary, that rule must apply here. White v. Island
Transp. Co., 233 U. S. 346
In re East River Co., 266 U. S. 355
The S.A. McCaulley,
99 F. 302; In re Old Dominion S.S.
115 F. 845; Glenson v. Duffy,
116 F. 298;
The Ocean Spray,
117 F. 971; In re Starin,
101; The City of Boston,
159 F. 257; The
171 F. 455; In re P. Sanford Ross,
921; Monongahela River Consol. Co. v. Hurst,
200 F. 711;
Hughes on Admiralty, § 172; Benedict on Admiralty (4th ed.) §
In Langnes v. Green,
the injured employee brought an
action for damages in the state court. Pending that, the employer
instituted proceedings in the federal court to limit liability. The
injured man was the only claimant, and cause existed for regarding
the limitation proceeding as intended to defeat trial by jury. This
Court held, in the circumstances, the federal court should not have
enjoined the state court proceeding, but that it should have
retained jurisdiction. When thereafter it appeared, Ex parte
that, in the state court, the injured party insisted on
denying the owner's right to limitation, we said
Page 292 U. S. 24
the federal court properly enjoined further proceedings. Neither
of these causes supports the suggestion that, when sued for damages
in a state court, a shipowner must at his peril claim limitation of
liability in that suit.
Carlisle Packing Co. v. Sandanger, 259 U.
, replying to alleged error because the trial
court refused to charge as requested, said:
"Petitioner asked an instruction that § 4283 of the Revised
Statutes applied, and that, under it, the verdict could not exceed
the value of the vessel. In a state court, when there is only one
possible claimant and one owner, the advantage of this section may
be obtained by proper pleading. The Lotta,
150 F. 219,
222; Delaware River Ferry Co. v. Amos,
179 F. 756. Here,
the privilege was not set up or claimed in the answer, and it could
not be first presented upon request for a charge to the jury."
This lends no support to the view that, sued in a state court
for damages, the shipowner must set up his claim for limitation;
otherwise it is waived.
Statutory provisions for limitation of liability should be
construed liberally in order to effectuate their beneficent
purposes. Providence & N.Y. S.S. Co. v. Hill Mfg. Co.,
109 U. S. 578
109 U. S. 588
Butler v. Boston & Savannah S.S. Co., 130 U.
, 130 U. S.
-550; La Bourgogne, 210 U. S.
, 210 U. S. 121
Capitol Transportation Co. v. Cambria Steel Co.,
249 U. S. 334
Evansville & B. G. Packet Co. v. Chero Cola Bottling
Co., 271 U. S. 19
271 U. S. 21
Hartford Acc. & Indemnity Co. v. Southern Pacific Co.,
273 U. S. 207
273 U. S. 214
Flink v. Paladini, 279 U. S. 59
view does not harmonize with the suggestion that, to obtain
limitation, a shipowner must initiate steps to that end before any
liability has been made to appear. The Benefactor,
103 U. S. 239
While, in certain circumstances, the shipowner may ask limitation
in the state court, he is not compelled so to do.
Page 292 U. S. 25
Here, the shipowner recognized the judgment, said nothing
against its validity. The proceedings in the two courts looked
towards entirely different ends.
The established rule in this Court is that if, in a second
action between the same parties, a claim or demand different from
the one sued upon in the prior action is presented, then the
judgment in the former cause is an estoppel "only as to those
matters in issue or points controverted, upon the determination of
which the finding or verdict was rendered." Bates v.
Bodie, 245 U. S. 520
245 U. S. 526
United States v. Moser, 266 U. S. 236
266 U. S. 241
United Shoe Machinery Corp. v. United States, 258 U.
, 258 U. S.
"While a defendant must bring forward all purely defensive
matter, he is not barred by a former judgment against him as to any
matter which he was not bound to present and which was not in fact
litigated. A judgment is not conclusive of those matters as to
which a party had the option to, but did not in fact, put in
litigation in the action."
Freeman on Judgments, 5th ed., § 786.
The judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals is