Thompson v. Coastal Oil Co.

PETITIONER: William Thompson
RESPONDENT: Coastal Oil Co.
LOCATION: SS Rosina Marron

DOCKET NO.: 1
DECIDED BY:
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 352 US 862 (1956)
REARGUED: Oct 08, 1956
DECIDED: Oct 15, 1956
ARGUED: Jan 24, 1956
GRANTED: Oct 10, 1955

ADVOCATES:
Charles A. Ellis - for the petitioner, argument
Michael E. Hanrahan - for the respondent
Silas Blake Axtell - for the petitioner, reargument

Facts of the case

William Thompson suffered a head injury aboard the SS. Rosina Marron after an attack by a fellow crewmember. After several months of recuperation, Thompson signed an agreement releasing Costal Oil Company from liability in exchange for $4000. Later, Thompson discovered the damage from his injury was much more extensive than originally thought. Thomson sued to recover damages from his injury. The district court upheld the release, noting that Thompson adamantly refused to consult an attorney, although he had many opportunities to do so, and freely entered into the agreement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed.

Question

Is Thompson entitled to sue Costal Oil Company even though he freely entered into a settlement agreement prior to learning the true seriousness of his medical condition?

Media for Thompson v. Coastal Oil Co.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 24, 1956 in Thompson v. Coastal Oil Co.
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 08, 1956 in Thompson v. Coastal Oil Co.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - October 15, 1956 in Thompson v. Coastal Oil Co.

Earl Warren:

In No. 1 on the docket, William Thompson versus Coastal Oil Company, the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is reversed, and the judgment of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey is reinstated.

Mr. Justice Harlan concurs in the result, but would have preferred to remand the case to the Court of Appeals for a determination as to whether the District Court properly found the vessel unseaworthy.

Mr. Justice Reed, Mr. Justice Frankfurter, Mr. Justice Burton, and Mr. Justice Minton dissent.

The other orders of the Court appear formally certified by the Chief Justice and filed with the clerk, and will not be orally announced.