1. In this proceeding under the Longshoremen's and Harbor
Workers' Act for compensation for the death of an employee, the
evidence was clearly sufficient to support the Deputy
Commissioner's finding that the deceased, at the time of his death,
was acting in the course of his employment, and therefore the
finding was conclusive. P.
314 U. S. 246
2. The application of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act
to a case where the employee, at the time of his death, was acting
in the course of his employment and was riding in a boat on a
navigable river, is exclusive, even though the employee usually was
engaged in the performance of nonmaritime duties. P. 314 U. S.
The case is not within the provision of § 3(a) excepting from
the coverage of the Act cases in which recovery may validly be
provided by state law.
3. A contention that an award under the Longshoremen's and
Harbor Workers' Act was void Under § 5 of the Act because the claim
for compensation was made by the widow, rather than by the "legal
representative" of the deceased, comes too late when raised for the
first time in the Circuit Court of Appeals. P. 314 U. S.
116 F.2d 789 reversed.
Certiorari, 313 U.S. 554, to review the reversal of a decree
sustaining an award of compensation under the Longshoremen's and
Harbor Workers' Act.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
August 18, 1938, George Armistead was drowned when a motor boat
in which he was riding capsized on the James
Page 314 U. S. 245
River off Richmond, Virginia. The boat was navigated by one
Johnnie Cooper. Both Armistead and Cooper were employees of the
respondent, Motor Boat Sales, Incorporated, which sold small boats,
maritime supplies, and outboard motors. The object of the ill-fated
boat trip was to test one of the respondent's outboard motors,
which it desired to sell, and later did sell, to the owner of the
boat. The petitioner, Deputy Commissioner of the United States
Employees' Compensation Commission, under authority of Section 19
of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 44
Stat. 1424, 1435, after complaint, investigation, and hearings,
ordered the respondent to pay compensation to Armistead's widow for
the benefit of herself and three minor children. Among the findings
on which the Deputy based his order were these: that Armistead's
death by drowning,
"arose out of and in the course of his employment; that his
death occurred upon navigable waters, and that, at the time of his
death, he was engaged in maritime employment."
Section 21(b) of the Act provides that, if a Deputy
Commissioner's award is not made in accordance with law, Federal
District Courts may enjoin enforcement of it upon petition of any
party in interest. In proceedings initiated by the respondent under
this section, the District Court sustained the award, dismissing
the bill on the ground that the findings of fact were supported by
evidence and were therefore conclusive, and that the Commissioner's
conclusions and award were in accordance with law. The Circuit
Court of Appeals reversed, advancing two reasons for its
conclusion: (1) Armistead was not acting in the course of his
employment at the time of the accident, and (2) even if he had
been, recovery was barred by Section 3(a) of the Act, making
compensation payable "only if . . . recovery for the disability or
death through workmen's compensation proceedings may not validly be
provided by State law."
(1) The Circuit Court's conclusion that Armistead was not acting
in the course of his employment rests upon a
Page 314 U. S. 246
revaluation of the evidence before the Deputy Commissioner. It
is true that the respondent's president testified that "George was
cautioned never to go into a boat or have anything to do with a
boat or motor," but this rule was laid down "prior to November,
1937," and the accident occurred in August, 1938. Against whatever
inferences to be drawn from testimony regarding this general and
rather remotely announced rule are the inferences to be drawn from
testimony that, on the morning of the accident, Armistead was sent
to the river with specific instructions to help Cooper in placing
the outboard motors on the boat; that there were no specific
instructions as to whether or not Armistead was to stay out of the
boat; that either Armistead or Cooper was told that Armistead was
"to go and help" Cooper; that Cooper, the superior of the two
employees, at least acquiesced in Armistead's remaining in the boat
to "keep a lookout" for hidden objects in the muddy water; that
Cooper regarded Armistead's acting as look out as "helpful;" that
employees of the respondent would sometimes make trips in boats for
testing purposes, in furtherance of respondent's business, and
that, in one such instance, an employee had taken a boat on a trip
of at least fifty miles in respondent's behalf. Granting that more
than one possible conclusion could have been reached upon the
evidence, we think it was clearly sufficient to support the Deputy
Commissioner's finding that Armistead was acting in the course of
his employment. The Circuit Court of Appeals should therefore have
accepted it as final. Voehl v. Indemnity Ins. Co.,
288 U. S. 162
(2) The Circuit Court was of the opinion that, even if Armistead
had acted in the course of his employment, the Longshoremen's and
Harbor Workers' Act would not apply because his employment was "so
local in character" that Virginia could validly have included it
under a state workmen's compensation act. This proposition cannot
be rested on the ground that Armistead,
Page 314 U. S. 247
hired primarily as a janitor and porter, was predominantly a
nonmaritime employee. For habitual performance of other and
different duties on land cannot alter the fact that, at the time of
the accident, he was riding in a boat on a navigable river, and it
is in connection with that clearly maritime activity [Footnote 1
] that the award was here made.
Cf. Northern Coal Co. v. Strand, 278 U.
, 278 U. S. 144
Employers' Liability Assurance Corp. v. Cook, 281 U.
, 281 U. S. 236
Moreover, Section 2(4) of the Act expressly provides for its
application to "employees [who] are employed . . . in whole or in
part, upon the navigable waters of the United States."
If the conclusion of the Circuit Court can be supported at all,
it must be on the basis that the employment, even though maritime,
and therefore within an area in which Congress could have
established exclusive federal jurisdiction, is nevertheless subject
to state regulation until Congress has exercised its paramount
power. Cf. Employers' Liability Assurance Corp. v. Cook,
supra, 281 U. S. 237
Congress having expressly kept out of the area in which "recovery .
. . may . . . validly be provided by State law," the argument may
be made that Virginia would have been unhampered in providing for
The decision of this Court in Southern Pacific Co. v.
Jensen, 244 U. S. 205
however, severs a link in this chain of reasoning. For, under the
holding of that case, even in the absence of any Congressional
action, [Footnote 2
Page 314 U. S. 248
is exclusive, and state action forbidden in an area which,
although of shadowy limits, [Footnote 3
] doubtless embraces the case before us. The
basis of the decision, that Article III, § 2, of the Constitution
extending the judicial power of the United States "to all Cases of
admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction" is tantamount to a command
that no state may interfere with the harmony and uniformity of
admiralty law, and that, on the facts of that case, recovery under
a state statute would work such an interference, was rejected by
four dissenting members of the Court. And when the doctrine of the
case was reaffirmed in Knickerbocker Ice Co. v.
Stewart, 253 U. S. 149
Washington v. W. C. Dawson & Co., 264 U.
, sharp disagreement was again expressed in
dissenting opinions. We have not been called upon here, however, to
reconsider the constitutional principles announced in those cases,
and we are convinced that such a reconsideration is not necessary
for disposition of the case before us.
What we are called upon to decide is not of constitutional
magnitude. For, regardless of whether or not the limitation on the
power of states set out in the Jensen
case is to be
accepted, it is not doubted that Congress could constitutionally
have provided for recovery under a federal statute in this kind of
situation. The question is whether Congress has so provided in this
statute. The proviso of Section 3(a) aside, there would be no
difficulty whatever in concluding it has. For the Act expressly
includes within its ambit accidents "arising out of and in the
course of employment" in the case of employees engaged "in
Page 314 U. S. 249
maritime employment, in whole or in part, upon the navigable
waters of the United States," and Armistead's death was the result
of such an accident. While the proviso of Section 3(a) appears to
be a subtraction from the scope of the Act thus outlined by
Congress, we believe that, properly interpreted, it is not a large
enough subtraction to place this case outside the coverage which
Congress intended to provide.
In the report of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
accompanying the bill which was enacted as the Longshoremen's and
Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, S.R. 973, 69th Cong., 1st Sess.
16, this avowal of Congressional purpose appears:
"If longshoremen could avail themselves of the benefits of State
compensation laws, there would be no occasion for this legislation;
but, unfortunately, they are excluded from these laws by reason of
the character of their employment, and they are not only excluded,
but the Supreme Court has more than once held that Federal
legislation cannot constitutionally be enacted that will apply
State laws to this occupation. (Southern Pacific Co. v.
Jensen, 244 U. S. 205
Ice Co. v. Stewart, 253 U. S. 149
; Washington v.
Dawson & Co., 264 U. S. 219
"It thus appears that there is no way of giving to these
hard-working men, engaged in a somewhat hazardous employment, the
justice involved in the modern principle of compensation without
enacting a uniform compensation statute."
There can be no doubt that the purpose of the Act was to provide
for federal compensation in the area which the specific decisions
referred to placed beyond the reach of the states. The proviso
permitting recovery only where compensation "may not validly be
provided by State law" cannot be read in a manner that would defeat
Page 314 U. S. 250
purpose. An interpretation which would enlarge or contract the
effect of the proviso in accordance with whether this Court
rejected or reaffirmed the constitutional basis of the
and its companion cases cannot be acceptable. The
result of such an interpretation would be to subject the scope of
protection that Congress wished to provide to uncertainties that
Congress wished to avoid.
The main impetus for the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers'
Compensation Act was the need to correct a gap made plain by
decisions of this Court. We believe that there is only one
interpretation of the proviso in Section 3(a) which would accord
with the aim of Congress; the field in which a state may not
validly provide for compensation must be taken, for the purposes of
the Act, as the same field which the Jensen
decision excluded from state compensation laws. Without affirming
or rejecting the constitutional
implications of those
cases, we accept them as the measure by which Congress intended to
mark the scope of the Act they brought into existence.
(3) The respondent further contends that the award was void
under Section 5 of the Act. This section, set out in full in the
margin below, [Footnote 4
"an injured employee,
Page 314 U. S. 251
or his legal representative in case death results from the
injury, may elect to claim compensation under this Act. . . ."
The record does not indicate that a "legal representative" of
Armistead was ever appointed. Here, the claim was filed by his
widow. Since the respondent did not contest the widow's capacity to
file a claim either before the Deputy Commissioner or in the
District Court, the objection, even if otherwise meritorious, was
made too late. Cf. McCandless v. Furlaud, 293 U. S.
. We may nevertheless point out that the widow's
asserted incapacity to sue in her own name can be derived only
inferentially from the terms of Section 5, and that other sections
of the Act are not in harmony with this inference. Section 12
provides that notice of death may be given "by any person claiming
to be entitled to compensation for such death or by a person on his
behalf." Section 19(a) provides that, "[s]ubject to the provisions
of section 13, a claim for compensation may be filed . . . in
accordance with regulations prescribed by the commission," and
there is nothing in Section 13 which makes filing by a "personal
representative" mandatory. Moreover, administrative practice
apparently countenances the filing of claims by widows, since the
commission has prescribed printed forms bearing the caption: "Claim
for Compensation in Death Case by Widow and for Children under the
Age of Eighteen." Form US-262.
We reverse the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals, and
affirm that of the District Court.
It is so ordered.
Cf. 71 U. S.
Wall. 411, 71 U. S. 427
Atlantic Transport Co. v. Imbrovek, 234 U. S.
, 234 U. S. 58
Industrial Comm'n v. Nordenholt Corp., 259 U.
, 259 U. S.
-273; Smith & Son v. Taylor,
276 U. S. 179
276 U. S. 181
London Co. v. Industrial Comm'n, 279 U.
, 279 U. S.
While reference was made in the majority opinion of the
case to § 9 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat.
76, 77, there is no implication that the Court regarded this
statute as an "occupation" by Congress of a field otherwise of
concurrent jurisdiction. And, in Knickerbocker Ice Co. v.
Stewart, 253 U. S. 149
253 U. S.
-158, the Court explained the Jensen
entirely in terms of the exclusive federal jurisdiction created by
Article III, § 2, and Article 1, § 8, of the Constitution.
Reference to § 9 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 was made only for the
purpose of pointing out that a clause embodied in it, which saved
certain common law remedies, "had no application."
"In view of these constitutional provisions and the Federal act,
it would be difficult, if not impossible, to define with exactness
just how far the general maritime law may be changed, modified, or
affected by state legislation. That this may be done to some extent
cannot be denied."
Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, supra,
"Sec. 5. The liability of an employer prescribed in section 4
shall be exclusive, and in place of all other liability of such
employer to the employee, his legal representative, husband or
wife, parents, dependents, next of kin, and anyone otherwise
entitled to recover damages from such employer at law or in
admiralty on account of such injury or death, except that, if an
employer fails to secure payment of compensation as required by
this Act, an injured employee, or his legal representative in case
death results from the injury, may elect to claim compensation
under this Act, or to maintain an action at law or in admiralty for
damages on account of such injury or death. In such action, the
defendant may not plead as a defense that the injury was caused by
the negligence of a fellow servant, nor that the employee assumed
the risk of his employment, nor that the injury was due to the
contributory negligence of the employee."