Seas Shipping Co., Inc. v. Sieracki,
328 U.S. 85 (1946)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Seas Shipping Co., Inc. v. Sieracki, 328 U.S. 85 (1946)

Seas Shipping Co., Inc. v. Sieracki

No. 365

Argued January 3, 1946

Decided April 22, 1946

328 U.S. 85


1. A shipowner's obligation of seaworthiness, traditionally owed by shipowners to seamen, extends to a stevedore who was injured while aboard and loading the ship, although employed by an independent stevedoring contractor engaged by the owner to load the ship. Pp. 328 U. S. 89-100.

(a) The obligation is essentially a species of liability without fault, and is neither limited by conceptions of negligence nor contractual in character. Pp. 328 U. S. 90-94.

(b) It is not confined to seamen who perform the ship's service under immediate hire of the owner, but extends to those who render it with his consent or by his arrangement. Pp. 328 U. S. 95-97.

(c) For purposes of the liability, a stevedore is a seaman, because he is doing a seaman's work and incurring a seaman's hazards, and he is entitled to a seaman's traditional protection. P. 328 U. S. 99.

2. By giving longshoremen the rights of compensation afforded by the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act and making them exclusive as against the employer, Congress has not withdrawn from longshoremen the protections gained under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 or other protections relating to personal injury available to them under general maritime law. P. 328 U. S. 100.

Page 328 U. S. 86

(a) The Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act did not purport to make the stevedore's remedy for compensation against his employer exclusive of remedies against others, and it expressly reserved to the stevedore a right of election to proceed against third parties responsible for his injury. P. 328 U. S. 101.

(b) It did not nullify any right of a stevedore against the owner of the ship, except possibly when he is hired by the owner. P. 328 U. S. 102.

3. A right peculiar to the law of admiralty may be enforced either by a suit in admiralty or by one on the law side of the court. P. 328 U. S. 88.

4. The liability of a shipowner for failure to maintain a seaworthy vessel rests upon an entirely different basis from the liability of contractors and subcontractors who built the ship. Therefore, the shipowner would not be jointly liable with the builders, but would be liable severally. P. 328 U. S. 89.

5. When one of several defendants in a suit brings the cause here on certiorari and the others are not named as respondents or served in accordance with Rule 38(3), this Court is precluded from making any determination concerning the rights or liabilities of the other defendants. P. 328 U. S. 89.

149 F.2d 98 affirmed.

A stevedore employed by an independent stevedoring company sued a shipowner, the contractor who built the ship, and a subcontractor for injuries sustained while working aboard the ship as a result of a latent defect in a part of the ship. The District Court gave judgment against the contractor and subcontractor, but in favor of the shipowner. 57 F.Supp. 724. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed as to the shipowner. 149 F.2d 98. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 700. Affirmed, p. 328 U. S. 103.

Page 328 U. S. 87

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