United States v. United Continental Tuna Corporation

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: United Continental Tuna Corporation
LOCATION: Vermillion Police Station

DOCKET NO.: 74-869
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 425 US 164 (1976)
ARGUED: Nov 03, 1975
DECIDED: Mar 30, 1976

ADVOCATES:
Francis J. Maclaughlin - for respondent
Robert E. Kopp -
Robert F. Kopp - for petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. United Continental Tuna Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 03, 1975 in United States v. United Continental Tuna Corporation

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 30, 1976 in United States v. United Continental Tuna Corporation

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in No. 74-869, United States against United Continental Tuna Corporation will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The case arises out of the collision that see between the United States naval destroyer and respondent’s fishing vessel.

Respondent, a Philippine corporation brought suit against United States for damages under the Public Vessels Act and the Suits in Admiralty Act.

The Public Vessels Act authorizes suit against the United States for damages caused by public vessel of the United States, but the Public Vessels Act contains a reciprocity provision that bars suit by a foreign national unless his government allows the United States nationals to sue in its court under similar circumstances.

On the United States' motion for summary judgment, the District Court for the Central District of the California held that this suit could be brought only under the Public Vessels Act since the naval destroyer involved was indeed a public vessel.

The District Court further held that the suit was barred by the reciprocity provision.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the suit could also be brought under the Suits in Admiralty Act, which contains no reciprocity provision.

It is undisputed, but before 1960 suits for damages caused by Public Vessels could not be brought under the Suits in Admiralty Act.

The Court of Appeals held, however, that the 1960 amendment of the Suits in Admiralty Act had the effect of expanding the Act to encompass these suits.

We disagree.

The amendment in question did not explicitly authorize suits previously governed by the Public Vessel Act to be brought under the Suits in Admiralty Act, free from the reciprocity provisions and other restrictive provisions of the Public Vessel Act.

And for the reasons set forth in opinion filed today with the clerk, we conclude that the amendment was not intended to accomplish that result.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.

Justice Stewart has filed a dissenting opinion.

Mr. Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Marshall.