Federal Marine Terminals, Inc. v. Burnside Shipping Company

PETITIONER: Federal Marine Terminals, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Burnside Shipping Company
LOCATION: W. R. Grace & Co. Corporate Headquarters

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 394 US 404 (1969)
ARGUED: Jan 15, 1969
DECIDED: Apr 01, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Federal Marine Terminals, Inc. v. Burnside Shipping Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1969 in Federal Marine Terminals, Inc. v. Burnside Shipping Company

Earl Warren:

Number 291, Federal Marine Terminals Incorporated, petitioner versus Burnside Shipping Company Limited.

Mr. Hough.

John W. Hough:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

One Gordon McNeill, stevedore employee of the petitioner, Federal Marine Terminals Inc. fell into the number 3 deep tank of the vessel Otterburn owned by the respondent on June 2, 1965 and was killed.

Thereafter, his widow filed a wrongful death action against the vessel owners.

In a separate action the vessel owners, Burnside Shipping Company, the respondent filed an action under the Ryan Stevedoring doctrine seeking indemnification of -- the amounts which they had to pay to the widow.

In a counterclaim of this petitioner, petitioner sought to bring a direct action against the vessel, the petitioner being a stevedoring contractor and thought to recover all the damages that it was exposed to under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act which had a potential total liability of $70,000.00.

That counterclaim was dismissed upon the motion of the respondent in the District Court.

The -- this vessel was affirmed in the Seventh Circuit.

We are here on the limited question and we submit to this Court that the question is, is there a contract, stevedoring contract implied in fact running directly between the vessel owner and the stevedoring contractor?

And we submit the corollary question fairly encompassed within that issue is, does the Longshoremen's and the Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, acts as a shield to the vessel owner to isolate the vessel owner from any liability directly against the stevedoring contractor?

Was the stevedoring contract made by the owner, vessel owner or the terminal?

John W. Hough:

It is outside the record Your Honor.

Well, I didn't asked that question, I noticed (Inaudible) --

John W. Hough:

There is an allegation in the brief of the respondent that the stevedoring contract was made between the timed charterer and the --

That is in fact (Voice Overlap) --

John W. Hough:

-- the stevedoring contractor.

-- basis for -- via contract, by the vessel owner?

John W. Hough:

We submit not Your Honor.

The charterer is not in control of the vessel.

It's controlled in the control -- since this insofar as before this Court, it was an unwritten contract.

And the time charterer only controls where the vessel is going, not the crew or the operation of the vessel by its crew, the crew being under the control of the vessel owner.

The time charterer controlling the -- if the vessel is going from one city or one port to another, we submit that it is not dispositive at all of this issue or that it does not fire this question.

Byron R. White:

And your claim then is entirely contractual in nature and doesn't rest in tort at all?

John W. Hough:

Not at all.

It is based on the contract.

Byron R. White:

Could you -- is there any tort theory which should be of any aid to you?

I suppose the -- whoever is responsible for the condition of the vessel would have some obligations to people who are on it just in ordinary tort.

John W. Hough:

Yes, Your Honor.

But we submit that this is based purely on the contract.