Miree v. DeKalb County, Georgia

RESPONDENT:DeKalb County, Georgia
LOCATION:United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare

DOCKET NO.: 76-607
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 433 US 25 (1977)
ARGUED: Apr 27, 1977
DECIDED: Jun 21, 1977

Alan W. Heldman – for petitioners
F. Clay Bush – for respondents
J. Arthur Mozley – for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Miree v. DeKalb County, Georgia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 27, 1977 in Miree v. DeKalb County, Georgia

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 21, 1977 in Miree v. DeKalb County, Georgia

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, the legal principles involved in this case probably will not be regarded by scholars as being of the first magnitude.

The facts are a good deal more interesting than the facts of many cases which this Court decides.

DeKalb County, Georgia is located in the suburban Atlanta area and it operated the DeKalb Peachtree Airport.

It also operated a large garbage dump located adjacent to the airport.

As might be expected, the garbage dump attracted a number of birds.

In 1973, a Learjet crashed shortly after takeoff from the airport.

The alleged caused of the crash was the ingestion into the craft’s engine of a large number of birds swarming from the dump.

As might be imagined, the lawsuits came think and fast.

The issue which has finally reached this Court on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is whether the right of the plaintiffs in these various lawsuits to sue the DeKalb County as a third party beneficiary of a contract with the Government should be determined under Georgia law or under what is called federal common law.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sitting en banc held that the decision should be under federal common law. We reversed that holding of the Court of Appeals.

Although the contract on which the plaintiffs are claiming as third party beneficiaries involves the Federal Aviation Administration, “No rights of the United States are in jeopardy as a result of the plaintiff’s third party beneficiary claims against DeKalb County.”

And so, we reversed the judgment of the Fifth Circuit and send it back to that court for determination of plaintiff’s third party beneficiary rights under Georgia law.

The Chief Justice has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Rehnquist.