Ryan Stevedoring Company, Inc. v. Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation

PETITIONER: Ryan Stevedoring Company, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

REARGUED: Oct 11, 1955 / Oct 12, 1955
DECIDED: Jan 09, 1956
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1955 / Mar 04, 1955

Facts of the case


Media for Ryan Stevedoring Company, Inc. v. Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 11, 1955 in Ryan Stevedoring Company, Inc. v. Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 12, 1955 in Ryan Stevedoring Company, Inc. v. Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation

Earl Warren:

-- Ryan Stevedoring Company versus Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation

Mr. Behrens.

Edward J. Behrens:

May it please the Court.

When we adjourned yesterday, I had practically completed the presentation of my views concerning the possible effect upon Section 905, the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers' Act, upon those they were not employees or claiming by subrogation through employees.

I have referred to the two lines of obligation which I thought were in existence.

Those two separate lines of obligations which have been found by every state court, dealing with every state compensation statute which counsel confined in this case.

When the question of the constitutionality of the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers' Act was before this Court, this Court adjudged it constitutional referring to the fact that as between stevedore and longshoremen, between employer and an employee, there was indeed quid pro quo, each was giving up something, each was getting something.

Under the old law, without a workmen's compensation law in effect, a longshoreman would sue his stevedore employer in negligence.

The amount he could recover, if he could prove negligence was without limit but he had to prove negligence.

On the other hand, the employer had certain defenses with negligence of a fellow servant, assumption of risk and his other common law defenses.

So the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers' Act as a compensation act stripped those defenses from the employer but in turn put a ceiling upon his obligation to his employee.

He said how much in compensation he would have to pay for?

Now, on the employee's side, he gave up something, an unlimited recovery but in turn, he -- he received something and namely, a right to receive compensation without regard to fault.

So that negligence was removed from the field of employer-employee relationships and that was the quid pro quo, the something for something upon which the constitutionality of this Act was originally adjudged.

It is obviously a question of fairness as to whether those not in the employer-employee relationship should be brought within the compass of this Act if they get nothing in return for it.

Professor Larson has expressed it in this way.

Now, he's dealing not only with this Compensation Act but all state compensation laws.

"The question here becomes very precise that the compensation acts in conferring immunity on the employer from common lawsuits mean to do so only at the expense of the injured employee or also at the expense of outsiders, that's the problem we have here."

One question is that the injured -- one answer is that the injured employee cut for it quid pro quo in receiving assured compensation payments as a substitute for tort recoveries while the third party has received absolutely nothing.

The third party here being the shipowner and hence, should not be impliedly held to have given up rights which he had before.

It is unfair to pull the third party within the principle of mutual sacrifice when his part is to be all sacrifice and no corresponding gain.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Behrens, there's an intimation here that to sustain your position would change the relationship between the employer and the employee.

In that, the employer would have charge of the litigation if he should go to a - to an order of the Commission before he made any payments and that -- that if he could not be liable otherwise and if he could control the litigation, that perhaps he wouldn't be as -- as free to make these voluntary payments as he would under the other construction of the -- the Act.

What -- what have you to say to that?

Edward J. Behrens:

Well, I think there are several facets to that.

The first one is this, that the law requires the employer to make compensation payments promptly and without any folderol unless the employer honestly controverts his obligation to pay compensation.

The law requires him to do that.

The Longshoremen and Harbor Workers' Act said that if you don't controvert your obligation to pay on the ground that the employee was not injured in the course of his employment, they must pay promptly.

That's the first thing.

So that in effect, the argument is, is that we will violate the law which makes us pay promptly in order to accomplish another result.