American Foreign Steamship Company v. Matise

PETITIONER:American Foreign Steamship Company
LOCATION:Virginia Citizens Consumer Council

DOCKET NO.: 74-966
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 423 US 150 (1975)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1975
DECIDED: Dec 16, 1975

Eric J. Schmidt – for respondent
Francis L. Tetreault – for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for American Foreign Steamship Company v. Matise

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 14, 1975 in American Foreign Steamship Company v. Matise

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – December 16, 1975 in American Foreign Steamship Company v. Matise

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Justice Marshall has an opinion for the Court to deliver.

Thurgood Marshall:

This is No. 74-966, American Foreign Steamship Company versus Matise.

The case is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Granville Matise, a seaman, was discharged from petitioner’s ship while it was docked in South Vietnam.

South Vietnamese currency regulation precluded petitioner from paying this seaman the wages that were due him in American currency.

However, airline tickets to the United States could be purchased in Saigon only with the America currency.

In order to resolve the dilemma created by the situation, petitioner purchased an airline ticket to the United States for the seaman, gave him the ticket together with a wage voucher for $118, which represented the wages due him less than $510, the cost of the airline ticket.

The seaman subsequently filed suit against petitioner in United States District Court for the Northern District of California, claimed the petitioner owed him the full amount of the money, $510 of wages.

Under 46 United States Code 596 petition was liable to him for the $510 plus two days for every pay that pays without the payment of the $510.

The District Court found that the seaman had consented to the purchase of the ticket with this money.

It held that petitioner had not refused or neglected to make the wage payment and hence was not liable.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed holding that the Section 596 requires that wages payments be made directly to the seaman.

Therefore, the $500 paid to the airline did not be regarded as a payment of wages.

On remand, the District Court assessed damages amounting to $596 and the Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal from this assessment and we granted certiorari.

On opinion on file with the clerk today, we revere this judgment.

The District Court explicitly found that the seaman consented to the application of the money that was due him through the purchase of the airline ticket.

Moreover, the seaman received a direct benefit in the form of the ticket from the expenditure of the $500 that he could to have received through being paid in cash.

Under such circumstances we hold that the transaction involving the purchase of receipt of airline ticket constituted a partial payment of the wages and that Section 596 should not be read to preclude such payments, and that there was, therefore, no neglect or refusal to make payments of the wages in this case.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Marshall.