Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione v. Oregon Stevedoring Company, Inc.

PETITIONER: Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione
RESPONDENT: Oregon Stevedoring Company, Inc.
LOCATION: Cumberland Hospital

DOCKET NO.: 82
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 376 US 315 (1964)
ARGUED: Jan 08, 1964
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1964

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione v. Oregon Stevedoring Company, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 08, 1964 (Part 2) in Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione v. Oregon Stevedoring Company, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 08, 1964 (Part 1) in Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione v. Oregon Stevedoring Company, Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 82, Italia Societa per Azioni di Navigazione.

Mr. Wood.

Erskine B. Wood:

Mr. Chief Justice, if the Court please.

My name is Erskine B. Wood, from Portland, Oregon.

I represent the petitioner in this case.

I have as much -- I have a great deal of difficulty pronouncing its name.

I usually called it the Italian Line for short.

This is a case in the maritime field involving the question of rights of indemnity.

These are the ship operators and their contracting stevedores.

The -- specifically, it involves those rights with respect to defective equipment brought aboard a vessel by the contracting stevedore.

Now, Your Honors recall that this matter of the shipowners or operators recovering indemnity over against their contracting stevedores has been the subject of quite a line of decisions in this case -- in this Court starting with the case of Ryan Stevedore Company against Pan-Atlantic.

And that was followed by Weyerhaeuser versus Nacirema and Crumady against the S.S. Joachim Fisser and Waterman against Dugan & McNamara.

All of those are decisions by this Court within the last few years dealing with this general topic of indemnity.

And in those cases, the Court has spelled out the doctrine of indemnification as being one that is based on contract, based on the theory that the contracting stevedore, when it undertakes by contract to do the stevedoring work onboard, the vessel, impliedly warrants that it will do the work in a workmanlike manner and will not render a substandard service.

And the Court has said that that is an implied -- a warranty implied in fact and it is comparable to a manufacturer's warranty of the soundness of its product and that competency in safety of stowage are at the very essence of the service undertaken.

Now, that's the -- just the general background of the field that we are in.

Now, the cases that have been expressly decided by this Court on indemnity, have involved acts of negligence on the part of the stevedore, that is human error committed by the stevedore's employees rather than the furnishing of defective equipment.

The case at bar, however, involves a case where the stevedore company in pursuance of its stevedoring work on the ship, brought aboard and used in connection with its work a -- a piece of rope that was unfit and defective.

Now, the facts -- the specific facts of this particular case are very simple.

The stevedore company was doing work on the petitioner's vessel on Portland, Oregon and it was doing this work under a contract which provided that the stevedore would furnish all ordinary gear required in the work and all labors and supervision and so forth.

And as a part of the work and as a part of that contract, they furnished an ordinary canvass rain tent, that is simply a tent to protect the cargo from getting wet from rain.

Now, attached to this tent are what they call tie-down ropes.

They're simply a -- a short length of rope, that is big around as a person's thumb to tie the end of the tent down, keep it from ripping around.

And one of these ropes was defective and as a result, one of the longshoremen, who is the employee of the stevedore contractor in pulling on this rope, it broke and he fell to the deck and sustained injury.

The longshoreman sued the shipowner, the petitioner here, in the state court and recovered a verdict.

The shipowner then sued originally in admiralty in the District Court to recover indemnification over and against the stevedore who had brought the tent aboard and furnished the (Inaudible) did not specify.

However, there was no evidence in any way to connect and to charge any negligence on the part of the shipowner because they had no control over this rope.

The rope was supplied by the stevedore contractor, brought aboard and it remains continually in the stevedore's (Inaudible) presented but it was a general verdict and in the complaint -- and I think -- I think Your Honor it's actually submitted on a basis to the jury, in that case, on the basis of both unseaworthiness and negligence.

So you can't tell --

Potter Stewart:

What you say is a matter of a --