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FITZGERALD v. UNITED STATES LINES CO.

decided: June 10, 1963.

FITZGERALD, PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR
v.
UNITED STATES LINES CO.



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Warren, Black, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart, White, Goldberg

Author: Black

[ 374 U.S. Page 16]

 MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Andres San Martin, a seaman, brought this action in the District Court for the Southern District of New York against the respondent United States Lines Company.

[ 374 U.S. Page 17]

     His complaint alleged that he had twisted and strained his back while working for respondent on its ship. He claimed $75,000 damages based on the negligence of respondent and on the unseaworthiness of the ship and $10,000 based on respondent's failure to provide him with medical attention, maintenance and cure, and wages as required by law.*fn1 Martin's negligence claim invoked a remedy created by Congress in § 33 of the Jones Act, 46 U. S. C. § 688, which explicitly provides that a seaman can have a jury trial as of right; but the actions for unseaworthiness and for maintenance and cure are traditional admiralty remedies which in the absence of a statute do not ordinarily require trial by jury. The complainant here did demand a jury, however, for all the issues growing out of the single accident. The trial judge granted a jury trial for the Jones Act and the unseaworthiness issues but held the question of recovery under maintenance and cure in abeyance to try himself after jury trial of the other two issues. The jury returned a verdict for United States Lines on the negligence and unseaworthiness issues; the court then, after hearing testimony in addition to that presented to the jury, awarded Martin $224 for maintenance and cure. Sitting en banc, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, four judges stating that it would be improper to submit a maintenance and cure claim to the jury, two believing it to be permissible but not required, and three maintaining that a seaman is entitled, as of right, to a jury trial of a maintenance and cure claim joined with a Jones Act claim. 306 F.2d 461. The lower courts are at odds on this issue.*fn2 We granted certiorari to decide it.*fn3 371 U.S. 932.

[ 374 U.S. Page 18]

     For years it has been a common, although not uniform,*fn4 practice of District Courts to grant jury trials to plaintiffs who join in one complaint their Jones Act, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure claims when all the claims, as here, grow out of a single transaction or accident.*fn5 This practice of requiring issues arising out of a single accident to be tried by a single tribunal is by no means surprising. Although remedies for negligence, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure have different origins and may on occasion call for application of slightly different principles and procedures, they nevertheless, when based on one unitary set of circumstances, serve the same purpose of indemnifying a seaman for damages caused by injury, depend in large part upon the same evidence, and involve some identical elements of recovery. Requiring a seaman

[ 374 U.S. Page 19]

     to split up his lawsuit, submitting part of it to a jury and part to a judge, unduly complicates and confuses a trial, creates difficulties in applying doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, and can easily result in too much or too little recovery.*fn6 The problems are particularly acute in determining the amount of damages. For example, all lost earnings and medical expenses are recoverable on a negligence count, but under the Jones Act they are subject to reduction by the jury if the seaman has been contributorily negligent. These same items are recoverable in part on the maintenance and cure count, but the damages are measured by different standards*fn7 and are not subject to reduction for any contributory negligence. It is extremely difficult for a judge in trying a maintenance and cure claim to ascertain, even with the use of special interrogatories, exactly what went into the damages awarded by a jury -- how loss of earning power was calculated, how much was allowed for medical expenses and pain and suffering, how much was allowed for actual lost wages, and how much, if any, each of the recoveries was reduced by contributory negligence. This raises needless problems of who has the burden of proving

[ 374 U.S. Page 20]

     exactly what the jury did.*fn8 And even if the judge can find out what elements of damage the jury's verdict actually represented, he must still try to solve the puzzling problem of the bearing the jury's verdict should have on recovery under the different standards of the maintenance and cure claim. In the absence of some statutory or constitutional obstacle, an end should be put to such an unfortunate, outdated, and wasteful manner of trying these cases.*fn9 Fortunately, there is no such obstacle.

While this Court has held that the Seventh Amendment does not require jury trials in admiralty cases,*fn10 neither that Amendment nor any other provision of the Constitution forbids them.*fn11 Nor does any statute of Congress or Rule of Procedure, Civil or Admiralty, forbid jury trials in maritime cases. Article III of the Constitution vested in the federal courts jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime cases, and, since that time, the Congress has largely left to this Court the responsibility for fashioning the controlling rules of ...


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