Reed v. The Yaka

LOCATION: Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 373 US 410 (1963)
ARGUED: Apr 22, 1963
DECIDED: May 27, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Reed v. The Yaka

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 22, 1963 in Reed v. The Yaka

Earl Warren:

-- Petitioner versus Steamship Yaka etc., et al.

Mr. Freedman?

Abraham E. Freedman:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The precise issue in this case is whether or not a longshoreman may sue a vessel in rem, where the vessel is not owned by his employer, but where it is bareboat charted by the employer and where the injury was caused by an unseaworthy condition created by the or during the tenure of the bareboat charter.

Briefly Waterman Steamship Company owned this vessel the Yaka, and bareboat charted it to Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation.

Pan-Atlantic also does stevedoring operations, and while the vessel was in the Port of Philadelphia in the course of the unloading operation, Pan-Atlantic caused some staging to be brought onboard the vessel pallets, which were defective and this man while working broke through one of the pallets and was injured.

He sued the vessel, the contention here was that he was bound by the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, he sued the vessel in rem.

Arthur J. Goldberg:


Abraham E. Freedman:

Yes sir Your Honor.

He received compensation from the insurer for Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation.

He brought a suit against Waterman as the owner of the vessel, but did not pursue that.

As a matter of fact that was dismissed on a ground that the unseaworthy condition, which is alleged to have caused the accident occurred during the period of the charter so that the owner himself had no control whatsoever over the condition nor had no part in creating the condition or maintaining it.

So that -- and that was not pursued, so that the specific issue, which is here involved is whether or not the Longshoremen can pursue the vessel in rem or whether the Pan-Atlantic as the employer and also bareboat charter precludes this man from pursuing the vessel.

There are a number of other side issues, which I would like to develop as we go along sir.

The District Court held that the vessel was unseaworthy and he charged the vessel itself with liability apart from any liability of Waterman or of the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation.

He held that the Compensation Act did not apply.

He also did not apply the doctrine of the Smith versus Mormacdale case about which I will say considerably more in a moment or two, in which case the Court -- for the Circuit Court of Appeals held that where the owner himself was also the employer, then the Longshoremen could not pursue the vessel, because in effect he would suing the owner.

In the Smith versus Mormacdale case that was the situation.

Here, it was one big step further on where it was not the owner who was the employer, it was a bareboat charter.

So that Judge Clary speaking for the District Court held that bareboat charter was not an owner and therefore he was not exempt or rather he meant, it was not barred by the Compensation Act, he could proceed.

He also held that there was indemnity over from Pan-Atlantic to the Waterman Steamship Corporation for the -- rather to the vessel for the injury and for the damage caused by the injury, since Pan-Atlantic was responsible for the accident, for the unseaworthiness itself.

The Court of Appeals reversed --

Arthur J. Goldberg:


Abraham E. Freedman:

Ultimately yes, Your Honor.

As between -- there was a contract of indemnity between Pan-Atlantic and Waterman so that Pan-Atlantic would be responsible ultimately, under its contract between these two.

Your Honors will find and I think this Court has said many times that this liability under this contract for indemnity does not affect the rights of third parties particularly in this kind of a situation.

That case came specifically before this Court in Pope & Talbot versus Hawn, H-A-W-N, where this Court said that the contract of indemnity cannot take away any rights from the longshoreman, which he may have against the vessel or her owner.

Arthur J. Goldberg:


Abraham E. Freedman:

In this case, there was Your Honor.

There was a charter party, which contained a contract of indemnity in it.