Pope & Talbot, Inc. v. Hawn,
346 U.S. 406 (1953)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pope & Talbot, Inc. v. Hawn, 346 U.S. 406 (1953)

Pope & Talbot, Inc. v. Hawn

No. 13

Argued October 12, 1953

Decided December 7, 1953

346 U.S. 406


Plaintiff, a carpenter employed by an independent contractor, was injured while working on a ship berthed on navigable waters in Pennsylvania. Basing jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship, he brought a civil action for damages against the shipowner in a federal district court in Pennsylvania, alleging negligence and the ship's unseaworthiness. The shipowner pleaded contributory negligence as a defense, and brought in the contractor as a third-party defendant, alleging that the injury resulted from the contractor's negligence and claiming recovery against the contractor by way of contribution or indemnity. A jury found that the ship was unseaworthy, that both the shipowner and the contractor were negligent, and that the plaintiff's own negligence had contributed to his damages.

Held: Plaintiff's judgment against the shipowner is affirmed, and the shipowner is not entitled to a judgment against the contractor for contribution. Pp. 346 U. S. 407-414.

1. Plaintiff's contributory negligence was not a complete bar to his recovery. Pp. 346 U. S. 408-411.

(a) In admiralty, contributory negligence may mitigate, but does not bar, recovery for personal injuries. Pp. 346 U. S. 408-409.

(b) Since plaintiff was injured on navigable waters while working on a ship, the basis of his action is a maritime tort, and his rights are not determined by Pennsylvania law. Pp. 346 U. S. 409-411.

(c) Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U. S. 64, does not require a different result. Pp. 346 U. S. 410-411.

2. Plaintiff's judgment against the shipowner should not be reduced by the amount of compensation payments plaintiff has received from his employer under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. Pp. 346 U. S. 411-412.

3. This Court declines to overrule or distinguish Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki, 328 U. S. 85. Pp. 346 U. S. 412-413.

4. The plaintiff, not being a seaman, is not barred by The Osceola, 189 U. S. 158, from maintaining a negligence action against the shipowner. Pp. 346 U. S. 413-414.

Page 346 U. S. 407

5. A judgment for the shipowner against the contractor for contribution is barred by Halcyon Lines v. Haenn Ship Ceiling & Refitting Corp., 342 U. S. 282. P. 346 U. S. 408.

198 F.2d 800 affirmed.

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