Huron Portland Cement Company v. City of Detroit

PETITIONER: Huron Portland Cement Company
RESPONDENT: City of Detroit
LOCATION: Approximately half-way between Santa Marta, Colombia and Miami. Florida (by water)

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 362 US 440 (1960)
ARGUED: Feb 29, 1960
DECIDED: Apr 25, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Huron Portland Cement Company v. City of Detroit

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 29, 1960 (Part 2) in Huron Portland Cement Company v. City of Detroit

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 29, 1960 (Part 1) in Huron Portland Cement Company v. City of Detroit

Alfred E. Lindbloom:

May it please the Court.

This is an appeal (inaudible) Court of Michigan.

The Supreme Court of Michigan affirmed the decree of the trial court which held that the Detroit's smoke ordinance which in effect provided for the inspection and -- and approval of boilers on -- on appellant's vessels engaged in interstate commerce and which had been approved, inspected and proved and licensed by the Federal Government to navigate was applicable to -- to those vessels.

And also that the penalty provision of the smoke ordinance which could not be complied with, with the boilers which had been approved, inspected and licensed by the Federal Government.

The appellant claims that the Federal Government by its boiler or by its inspection laws had preempted the field and that therefore the city ordinance could not validly be applied to the vessels.

It also claimed that the equipment on vessels engaged in interstate commerce required uniform treatment.

And that the ordinance which also provided for inspection and approval of the same equipment and require a -- required necessary treatment and that -- and it was an undue burden upon interstate commerce.

The facts are that this appellant has a mill in Alpena, Michigan and has a fleet of six vessels which -- with which it transports cement from its mill in Alpena to various ports on the Great Lakes.

Five of these vessels are steam vessels and they're equipped with hand-fired Scotch marine boilers.

And --

Felix Frankfurter:

It's necessary to understand your case, to understand what -- what a marine Scotch boiler is because it's sold and you'd better explain that these -- one ignoramus to understand.

Alfred E. Lindbloom:

I don't think it is, Your Honor.

If it is, it's merely a boiler in which you put in the fuel and the fuel heats tubes that runs over the fuel.

Charles E. Whittaker:

Well, this hand -- hand-fired Scotch marine has more smoke, that is emphasized.

Alfred E. Lindbloom:

That's right.

The -- the hand-fired Scotch marine boiler is the grand dad of the boilers used on the vessels and it -- it as, Your Honor -- as Your Honor said it does admit more smoke.

But these vessels are inspected annually at the time and bi-annually now by the United States Coast Guard.

There, the vessels are inspected and the (inaudible) is inspected.

And after this --

Felix Frankfurter:

But it's just -- do they -- do the statutes or regulations specifically call for inspection of boilers?

Alfred E. Lindbloom:


Yes, Your Honor.

Felix Frankfurter:


Alfred E. Lindbloom:


Charles E. Whittaker:

Well, is that the -- the only authority for safety on stevedoring purposes or is it also for air pollution.

Alfred E. Lindbloom:

Well, sir, I can't point to anything in the statute that says air pollution.


But the statute says that if the broiler is for any reason unsafe, it should not be approved.

The approval says it shall be -- it shall be approved only of it's safe and in whole in part or if it's because of defective design or defective workmanship, defect of material or for any other reason is unsafe, then the boiler should be and must be (Inaudible) that purpose.

Felix Frankfurter:

And I take that you will argue that unsafe is not restricted to safety for purposes of functioning as a boiler.