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Jones v. Waterman S. S. Corp.

decided.: May 28, 1946.


Author: Biggs

Before BIGGS, McLAUGHLIN and O'CONNELL, Circuit Judges.

BIGGS, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiff, David E. Jones, a seaman employed by the defendant and third-party plaintiff, Waterman Steamship Corporation, brought suit against his employer in a civil action to recover maintenance and cure and wages. Jones had left his ship, the S.S. "Beauregard", on shore leave and was proceeding across the pier toward the street when all the lights on the pier were extinguished. As a result of the darkness he fell into an open ditch along a railway siding owned and operated by the third-party defendant, Reading Company, and sustained injuries which incapacitated him for some months. Waterman impleaded Reading Company as a third-party defendant for reasons set out hereinafter.

The suit at bar, Civil Action No. 1481 in the District Court, was instituted by Jones on the same day that he brought a civil action against Reading Company in the court below, Civil Action No. 1480, to recover damages for his injuries and expenses in connection therewith. No. 1480 was tried to a jury and a verdict was returned for the plaintiff in the amount of $2,387.50. Thereafter, the court granted a motion made by Reading for a new trial. See Jones v. Reading Company, D.C., 45 F.Supp. 566. Jones then settled his case with Reading for the sum of $750 and executed a general release in the latter's favor. The release was in the usual form and released and discharged Reading from all claims and demands whatsoever which Jones had against Reading "by reason of any matter, cause or thing whatsoever * * * and particularly, * * * by reason of injuries and losses sustained as a result of * * *" the fall "to recover for which I brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Reading Company, in Civil Action No. 1480, * * *".

During the pendency of .no. 1481 Waterman filed a motion to dismiss the action against it on the ground that a ship owner was not liable for maintenance and cure for an injury occurring on a pier. The motion was granted by the court below but the judgment was reversed by this court. See 3 Cir., 130 F.2d 797. Our decision was affirmed. Aguilar v. Standard Oil Co., 318 U.S. 724, 63 S. Ct. 930, 87 L. Ed. 1107.After remand Waterman filed an answer setting out the release which Jones had executed to Reading and impleaded Reading asserting that Waterman is entitled to indemnity from Reading for any sum which Jones may recover against Waterman.

The case went to trial. Jones introduced as evidence the testimony received in No. 1480. Other evidence was also received which need not be detailed here. It is enough to state that certain testimony was given by Jones respecting his inability to work following his medical discharge and that shipping articles of the "Beauregard" were introduced in evidence as was the release to Reading. In No. 1480 Jones sought to recover both compensation and consequential damages, the latter including, as the evidence shows, substantially all the items recoverable by Jones as maintenance and cure and wages.

The court below in the instant case concluded that "To permit the plaintiff to successfully prosecute [the action at bar] would be to enable him to obtain two satisfactions for the one injury by resort to two different causes of action." 60 F.Supp. 30, 32. Judgment was entered in favor of Waterman and against Jones. Judgment also was entered in favor of Reading as third-party defendant and against Waterman as third-party plaintiff on the theory enunciated in The Federal No. 2, 2 Cir., 21 F.2d 313. Both Jones and Waterman have appealed at our Nos. 8930 and 8945, respectively.

If a seaman falls sick or is injured and just be removed or is kept from his vessel he is entitled to maintenance and cure as well as to his wages. Smith v. Lykes Brothers-Pipicy S.S. Co., 5 Cir., 105 F.2d 604, 605. Wages, even if they include "keep", must be restricted to the term of employment as specified by the shipping articles while the duty to provide maintenance and cure lasts as long as the seaman need continues. Calmar Steamship Corporation v. Taylor, 303 U.S. 525, 58 S. Ct. 651, 82 L. Ed. 993; Loverich v. Warner Co., 3 Cir., 118 F.2d 690, certiorari denied 313 U.S. 577, 61 S. Ct. 1104, 85 L. Ed. 1535. Jones has a cause of action against Waterman for maintenance and cure and for his wages as set out in his complaint in the suit at bar. This is an action ex contractu.Jones may maintain it by reason of the obligations and duties imposed on Waterman by the shipping articles and by virtue of his status as a member of the crew of the "Beauregard". Jones also had a cause of action against Reading sounding in tort and arising ex delicto by reason of Reading's alleged failure properly to maintain its right-of-way. Jones was careful to restrict his complaint in the case at bar to a claim for "wages to the end of the articles and maintenance and cure for the period of his disability * * *". He does not seek to recover damages from Waterman.

The distinction between the right to maintenance and cure and wages and the right to damages in made clear by the Supreme Court in Pacific Steamship Co. v. Peterson, 278 U.S. 130, 138, 49 S. Ct. 75, 77, 73 L. Ed. 220, wherein Mr. Justice Sanford stated, "In short, the right to maintenance, cure and wages, implied in law as a contractual obligation arising out of the nature of the employment, is independent of the right to indemnity or compensatory damages for an injury caused by negligence; and these two rights are consistent and cumulative." See also Aguilar v. Standard Oil Co., supra, 318 U.S. at pages 730, 731, 63 S. Ct. 930, 87 L. Ed. 1107. Jones could not have recovered maintenance and cure and wages from Reading, nor may he recover damages from Waterman. It follows that Waterman and Reading were not joint tortfeasors. In fact, Waterman committed no tort. It is not alleged that it did. Under no theory of law can Jones' release to Reading release Waterman. It is unnecessary therefore to discuss the Pennsylvania law of release of joint tortfeasors or to compare it with the federal law. Cf. Thompson v. Fox, 326 Pa. 209, 192 A. 107, 112 A.L.R. 550 and McKenna v. Austin, 77 U.S.App.D.C. 228, 134 F.2d 659, 148 A.L.R. 1253.

Jones has settled his cause of action against Reading but he is free to assert and to recover on his ex contractu cause of action against Waterman. He would be free to do this even if he had obtained a judgment against Reading and had executed it. The circumstances are somewhat analogous to those which would be presented if a person insured against personal liability were injured by an automobile driven by an alleged tortfeasor. He has sued the tortfeasor who drove the automobile which hit him and recovered a verdict. This has been set aside and he, thereafter, makes a settlement with the alleged tortfeasor. He then seeks to collect a sum of money which he alleges is due to him under his insurance policy because of his injuries. The insurance carrier says, "You have made a settlement with and have received money from the tortfeasor, the amount of your claim against us has been satisfied by that settlement or at the least your recovery against us must be reduced pro tanto." This contention in substance was dealt with by the court in Dempsey v. Baltimore & O.R. Co., D.C. 219 F. 619 and was refuted. See also Sprinkle v. Davis, 111 F.2d 925, 128 A.L.R. 1101 and Clune v. Ristine, 10 Cir., 94 F. 745. The position taken by Waterman as to Jones is untenable.

In the suit at No. 1480 there was a certain confusion evinced by counsel for both parties as to the nature of the damages which Jones was entitled to prove and this confusion seems to have been carried over into the suit at bar. As we have indicated at an earlier point in this opinion, a seaman is entitled to wages only to the end of the period of time covered by the shipping articles, whereas he is entitled to maintenance and cure as long as he shall have need of them. Two sets of shipping articles were introduced in evidence. We are concerned with only one, those signed by Jones on January 6, 1941, and which were in effect on January 16, 1941, the day of the accident. It has been stipulated by the parties that these shipping articles were "closed out" on February 5, 1941. But the articles state, inter alia, that the seamen should make one or more voyages on the "Beauregard" as the master might direct "for a term of time not exceeding twenty-four calendar months." We entertain no doubt in the light of such decisions as McCarron v. Dominion Atlantic Railway Company, D.C., 134 F. 762, and Enochasson v. Freeport Sulphur Co., D.C., 7 F.2d 674, that Waterman's obligation to pay Jones' wages endured as long as the period for which he claims maintenance and cure. Since this was the fact the District Court at No. 1480 could not have permitted Jones to recover from Reading damages based upon maintenance and cure and wages. Jones was entitled to recover in the suit at No. 1480 only compensatory damages including an amount to be awarded for pain and suffering. Since Jones was not entitled to recover damages for maintenance and cure and wages in the suit at No. 1480, all other considerations aside, these elements may not be deemed to have been included in the settlement of the suit at No. 1480.

We come now to the final phase of the case at bar. The question presented by it may be summed up as follows: May Waterman recover from Reading any sum which it may be required to pay to Jones for maintenance and cure and wages? In other words, if Waterman pays Jones, is Waterman entitled to indemnity from Reading if it be found that Reading negligently caused Jones' injuries? The third party complaint filed by Waterman does not allege specifically that Reading was negligent or that Jones was injured by reason of Reading's negligence. It does aver, however, that Reading was in charge of the premises through which Jones walked as an invitee and that when the lights on the pier were extinguished Jones fell into the railroad "ditch" sustaining the injuries which he recites in his complaint. The evidence in No. 1480 was introduced by a stipulation into the case at bar.The court below in the case at bar made no findings of fact or conclusions of law as to Reading's negligence, if any, since it relied on The Federal No. 2, supra. It is suggested by counsel for Jones that this court "as in an action in admiralty" may make findings of fact and conclusions of law. We may not do this. The suit at bar is not in admiralty though Jones' rights against Waterman are governed by the general maritime law. It is a civil suit and is to be conducted in the court below according to the Rules of Civil Procedure. 28 U.S.C.A. following section 723c. Since it was tried to the court*fn1 and not to a jury, findings of fact and conclusions of law must be made by the court below as required by Rule 52. For the purpose of expenditing the cause we will assume, arguendo, that Jones' injuries were caused by Reading's negligence and will endeavor to state the applicable principles of law governing the third-party action.

Whether Waterman may maintain its action against Reading in the present suit depends in part on whether the cause of action set out in the third-party complaint can be fitted into the frame of Rule 14(a). The answer to this question turns in large part on the construction of the word "claim" as used in the rule.*fn2 We think it would be difficult to employ a more inclusive term, and, as is stated in Moore's Federal Practice, Vol. 1, at p. 742, "* * * it is reasonably certain that Federal Rule 14 sought the same general objectives as * * * Admiralty Rule [56]." Admiralty Rule 56, 28 U.S.C.A. following section 723, is very broad and, if the suit at bar were in admiralty, would permit the defendant to maintain the third-party complaint under the assumption of proof which we have made. Moore states also at p. 740, that "The general purpose of Rule 14 is to avoid two actions which should be tried together to save the time and cost of a reduplication of evidence, to obtain consistent results from identical or similar evidence, and to do away with the serious handicap to a defendant of a time difference between a judgment against him, and a judgment in his favor against the third-party defendant." If Waterman will have a claim which it can assert against Reading because compelled to pay Jones money which, absent Reading's negligence in relation to Jones, it would not have to pay, Waterman may assert that claim in the suit at bar by way of its third-party complaint.

The primary question therefore is whether or not Waterman has a cause of action which it can assert against Reading if Waterman is compelled to pay Jones. We think that Waterman has such a cause of action if it can prove that Reading's negligence was the cause of Jones' injuries. If Waterman can recover from Reading it can do so because a cause of action arises under the law of Pennsylvania where the operative facts occurred.*fn3 and*fn4 No Pennsylvania case in point has been cited to us and we can find none. The right is one of an employer to recover indemnity for sums of money which he has been compelled to pay to a servant who has been injured by the tortious act of another. This is not the right of an employer to recover against a tortfeasor for an act which has deprived him of the services of a servant but ...

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