Goett v. Union Carbide Corp.,
361 U.S. 340 (1960)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Goett v. Union Carbide Corp., 361 U.S. 340 (1960)

Goett v. Union Carbide Corp.

No. 3

Argued November 12, 1959

Decided January 18, 1960

361 U.S. 340


Basing her claim alternatively on unseaworthiness and on negligence, petitioner brought this libel in admiralty to recover under the West Virginia Wrongful Death Act from the owner of a river barge for the death of an employee of an independent contractor engaged in repairing the barge, who fell off the barge and drowned in navigable waters in West Virginia. The District Court found that the vessel was unseaworthy and that the barge owner was negligent. Basing liability on negligence, it awarded petitioner the maximum amount of damages allowable under the West Virginia Wrongful Death Act. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's finding of negligence and held that the vessel was not unseaworthy and that the decedent was not a person to whom the warranty of seaworthiness was owed; but it did not pass on the question whether unseaworthiness would, in any event, be available as a ground for recovery in a West Virginia wrongful death action involving a maritime tort.

Held: The judgment is vacated, and the cause is remanded to the Court of Appeals to determine: (a) whether the West Virginia Wrongful Death Act, as to this maritime tort, employs the West Virginia or the general maritime law concept of negligence; (b) whether, in the light of that determination, the District Court's finding as to negligence is correct under the proper substantive law, and (c) whether the West Virginia Wrongful Death Act incorporates the doctrine of unseaworthiness in death actions involving maritime torts. Pp. 361 U. S. 341-344.

256 F.2d 449, judgment vacated and cause remanded.

Page 361 U. S. 341

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