Gulf Offshore Company v. Mobil Oil Corporation

PETITIONER: Gulf Offshore Company
RESPONDENT: Mobil Oil Corporation
LOCATION: Western District Court of Kentucky

DOCKET NO.: 80-590
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 453 US 473 (1981)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1981
DECIDED: Jul 01, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Charles D. Kennedy - on behalf of the Petitioner
Frank Caton - for respondent Mobil Oil Corp. and Joseph D
Frank E. Caton - on behalf of Respondent Mobil Oil Corporation
Joseph D. Jamail - on behalf of Respondent Steven Gaedecke

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Gulf Offshore Company v. Mobil Oil Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1981 in Gulf Offshore Company v. Mobil Oil Corporation

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Gulf Offshore Company against Mobil Oil.

Mr. Kennedy, you may proceed when you are ready.

Charles D. Kennedy:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

We are here today on a writ of certiorari to the Texas Court of Civil Appeals, 14th Judicial District, on a matter raising two issues.

First, there's an issue of subject matter jurisdiction of the courts of the State of Texas to consider and try and hear cases arising under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

The second issue is an issue involving the applicability of this Court's ruling in the case of Liepelt which finds that juries are knowledgeable taxpayers of this country... I'm paraphrasing... and that therefore the trial court has the duty of performing and providing instructions to the jury as to the effect of federal income taxation on jury damage awards.

I'd like to first turn briefly to what I feel is the threshold question, and that is the question of subject matter jurisdiction to allow the courts of many states to take jurisdiction for matters arising on the Outer Continental Shelf.

In 1953 the Outer Continental Shelf was becoming a very vital area.

The Congress of this country felt at that time that there must be a necessity for jurisdiction over this developing area.

This is not a situation of the Congress going into a state and buying land or taking land away from an already existing state.

This had already been laid to rest in this Court's opinion in United States v. California.

California had claimed ownership of the tidelands.

The state found that the United States had paramount jurisdiction over the tidelands.

Because of the historic nature of the state's claim to rights in the tideland areas, Congress passed, also in 1953, the Submerged Lands Act which ceded to the states that area lying offshore of their land areas that had historically been claimed by the states.

William H. Rehnquist:

Do you think the '53 Act was primarily thought of in terms of personal injury jurisdiction?

Charles D. Kennedy:

No, Your Honor, I think it was thought of to encompass the entire activities on the Outer Continental Shelf beyond the Submerged Land Act's ceding of rights to territorial waters of the state.

The personal injury aspect of this case comes up incidental.

This is really a case involving a contractual dispute between the Pool Corporation, who is a drilling contractor, and Mobil Oil Company, who was the leasor of the area that was being drilled.

The plaintiff in the case below was an employee of Pool Corporation, an employee of my client.

On the basis of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Mr. Gaedecke, the plaintiff's sole remedy against Pool Corporation was under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act which is definitely adopted as the exclusive remedy of employees on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act also recognizes the right of third party suits by such employees under Section 905(b) if it happens to be due to the negligence of a vessel, under Section 33 if it is due to any other type of third party action.

So this all, the plaintiff's primary claim had to arise under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act was thereby extended.

We move then to an area where because of international implication the Government had severe reservations of attempting to take sovereignty beyond the states' historical territorial limits.

They adopted the procedure set out in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act which was a horizontal extension of jurisdiction of the Federal Government to cover the subsoils, seabeds, and any artificial islands constructed thereon.

The Act specifically did not attempt to take on any jurisdiction over the high seas, leaving that to the maritime and admiralty courts.

The Act itself, after first providing for this extension of jurisdiction, then turned its attention to what laws would be applicable in this Outer Continental Shelf area, in this new area of jurisdiction for the Federal Government.

They first said that federal law and regulations are applicable.

They delegated to the Secretary of Interior the right to promulgate rules and regulations which were made applicable.

Then, in order to plug any potential gaps or voids in the federal law as it existed at that time, they said that we are going to adopt as federal law the law of the adjacent state.

William H. Rehnquist:

You're paraphrasing now from pages 3 and 4 of your brief?