Guzman v. Pichirilo

LOCATION: Labor Union Protest

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 369 US 698 (1962)
ARGUED: Mar 27, 1962
DECIDED: May 21, 1962

Facts of the case


Media for Guzman v. Pichirilo

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1962 (Part 2) in Guzman v. Pichirilo

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1962 (Part 1) in Guzman v. Pichirilo

Earl Warren:

Number 358, Laureano Maysonet Guzman, Petitioner, versus Ramon Ruiz Pichirilo.

Mr. Nachman.

Harvey B. Nachman:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case presents a question that is here for the first time that is whether a longshoreman who was injured on a conceitedly unseaworthy vessel whether he may have his rights against the ship owner and his security against the vessel vitiated by the facts that the owner of the vessel demised it to his stevedore employer.

May I say that this question although raised by the respondent in the District Court does not really arise in this case until the Circuit Court's opinion because the District Court found as a matter of fact that there was no demise.

And we contend that the Circuit Court of Appeals has violated the injunction of this Court in the McAllister case by reversing the District Court on evidence that was not clearly erroneous.

I think perhaps it'd be best to state the respondent's argument in the District Court.

The respondent's argument it was, the owner has no personal liability because he has demised his vessel to someone else.

And despite the injunctions of Sieracki and all the cases of this Court that followed Sieracki that an owner has a non-delegable duty to provide and maintain at all times a seaworthy vessels.

A demise makes the demisee pro hac vice the owner and therefore the owner's interest is cutoff.

Therefore he has no in personam liability.

And the demisee who happens to be covered by a system of working with compensation cannot be liable because he's been exonerated by workmen's compensation and therefore this longshoreman who was injured exactly the same way that Sieracki was on an unseaworthy vessel in navigation is just tough luck.

He doesn't have any right.

He can't collect against anyone.

Is this a --

Earl Warren:

Would you mind briefly stating the facts of the case --


Earl Warren:

-- Mr. --

Harvey B. Nachman:

Yes Your Honor.

The facts of the case were simply that this longshoreman was aboard this Dominican flag vessel in the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico.He was working on deck when a shackle on the boom broke.

The boom fell and crushed his head and split like a pineapple, that's the case, just what happened.

No defense was ever raised that the vessel was anything but unseaworthy.

The only defense raised was that we're not liable because there was no in personam liability.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well now whether -- what -- what were the facts of the demise?

Harvey B. Nachman:

Well, I'm coming to that Your Honor and it's right now, the District Court had the following evidence --

Potter Stewart:

And just before you do if you will.

Harvey B. Nachman:

Yes sir.

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Justice Brennan's acquiesce is just to get back for a minute to this accident and the status of this man, the ship so the Court of Appeals held had been demised to this man's employer.

Who was on it -- he was stevedoring.

Harvey B. Nachman:

That's right.