Pure Oil Company v. Suarez

PETITIONER: Pure Oil Company
LOCATION: Where Penn was killed

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 384 US 202 (1966)
ARGUED: Apr 19, 1966
DECIDED: May 16, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for Pure Oil Company v. Suarez

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 1966 in Pure Oil Company v. Suarez

Earl Warren:

Number 692 Pure Oil Company Petitioner, versus Pascual Suarez.

Mr. Deutsch?

Eberhard P. Deutsch:

Mr. Chief Justice may it please the Court.

This was an action instituted by a seaman who was a resident of the northern district of Florida against the petitioner here, the respondent below, Pure Oil Company instituted under the Jones Act in the southern district of Florida in which the petitioner, Pure Oil Company does business.

It is however an Ohio Corporation with its principal office in the northern district of Illinois.

At this point I should like briefly to trace a phase of the legislative history of the Jones Act which strangely has never been discussed in any of the decisions in this or any other cases involving anything in the nature of the issue here presented.

It has been stated frequently that the purpose of the Jones Act was to expand the rights of seamen and I think that is true except in the point here at issue on which the legislative history demonstrates that it was expressly and clearly intended to restrict the venue of seaman’s actions under the Jones Act.

That the statute in the course of its enactment was part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 and the Jones Act itself was the creature of Senator Wesley Jones of the State of Washington who proposed it to give seamen the right of action for negligent, the sort of common law right of action in federal and state courts to be governed, as it came out originally, by the provisions of a Federal Employers Liability Act.

The house objected to that latter provision insofar as venue was concerned because the Federal Employers Liability Act provides for venue in any jurisdiction in which the respondent is doing business.

After three or in the course of three-senate house conferences the position of the house of representatives was to accepted for the senate conferees and the statute was enacted to provide that only the Court of the residence or of the principal office of the respondent should have jurisdiction as it is called and now that has been held to mean venue.

I repeat that that restrictive provision in the statute, the legislative history regarding that, has never been mentioned by any court so far as I know in this or in any of the other cases and there have been several, three at least, involving the precise point at issue here.

It was discussed.

It was put in the briefs.

It was put in application for rehearing in the Court below in this case.

It was argued.

It was presented and the matter was not mentioned.

Now until 1948 with the revision, general revision of the judicial code, the word residence was taken to mean with regard to corporate entities the state of incorporation.

In the overall revision of the judicial code in that year which expounded the term it was given in effect meaning to apply to any jurisdiction to any district in which the respondent did business.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well that you referred, it applied to [Inaudible] that would put it on the same basis as FELA's, is that right?

Eberhard P. Deutsch:

That's correct.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

As you mentioned?

Eberhard P. Deutsch:

That's correct.

That's why I mentioned –

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

The 1948 statute is more a general application, is that right?

Eberhard P. Deutsch:

The 1948 statute is the general judicial code 1391 (c) which does provide without question and unequivocally that the term residence for venue purposes shall be taken to include any district in which the respondent corporation is licensed to do or is doing business.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

But your proposition is going to be not so as the Jones Act?

Eberhard P. Deutsch:


That is my proposition.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:


Eberhard P. Deutsch:

Now, this Court has had a case to consider that question with regard to a somewhat similar and somewhat different provision of the judicial code itself dealing with patent litigation which also provides a specific venue within which patent litigation may be instituted.