Waldron v. Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc.

PETITIONER: Waldron
RESPONDENT: Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc.
LOCATION: Alhambra police station

DOCKET NO.: 233
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 386 US 724 (1967)
ARGUED: Mar 13, 1967
DECIDED: May 08, 1967

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Waldron v. Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 13, 1967 in Waldron v. Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc.

Earl Warren:

James J.Waldron, Petitioner, versus Moore McCormack Lines.

Mr. Friedman.

Theodore H. Friedman:

May it please the Mr. Chief Justice and the Court.

This maritime action arises in grant a certiorari from the Second Circuit following a trial in the Southern District of New York.

During the course of which or at the close of which, after all the evidence was in, the trial court determined to dismiss a portion of the seaman's claim and to refuse to permit the jury to pass upon it.

And that specific claim is what is before the Court now, and that is whether the fact as was demonstrated by fact testimony and expert testimony that there were an insufficient number of men provided for a particular test aboard the ship at the particular time and place the job function was to be carried out was within the reach and doctrine scope of the concept of unseaworthiness.

The Second Circuit divided two to one on the matter.

Indeed, the trial court had himself change his mind during the course of the case, having first decided it in favor of the seaman and this Court of course has granted certiorari.

Now the issue as presented might be deemed noble in the sense that this Court has not specifically passed upon it in the sense of manpower insufficiency creating unseaworthiness or at least a jury question for resolution.

But this Court has of course on numerous occasions stated quite clearly that any insufficiency of equipment, the pertinences or appliances for a particular task at the time and place the task is performed aboard the ship gives rise to a condition of unseaworthiness, at the very least, creates a question for jury resolution.

And of course, this Court's historic and landmark position in Mitchell v. Trawler Racer enunciated more clearly than ever before that the doctrines and concepts and concerns of negligence law were to be completely eliminated from any determination of unseaworthiness liability.

Of course, that was again reiterated in the Gutierrez opinion and in the Reed opinion of some three terms ago.

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Friedman, I don't quite understand you when you say this presents the question for jury determination.

In admiralty, you're not entitled to a jury trial, are you?

Theodore H. Friedman:

Your Honor, this was tried before a jury, it was tried --

Potter Stewart:

Because it was --

Theodore H. Friedman:

-- on the civil side.

Potter Stewart:

Because it was -- it was joined with a claim of negligence?

Theodore H. Friedman:

Your Honor, that takes --

Potter Stewart:

On the Jones Act, isn't that correct?

Theodore H. Friedman:

Yes, and no Your Honor.

I say no because in the Fitzgerald case, when the maintenance and cure was joined with the unseaworthiness and the Jones Act claim, it was held by this Court, opinion by Mr. Justice Black, I had the pleasure of arguing the case, that the matter was to be submitted to the jury.

Potter Stewart:

Yes.

Theodore H. Friedman:

All maritime matters arising out of the same accident where the proceeding on the theory of negligence under the Jones Act unseaworthiness on the general maritime law or even if maintenance and cure with its different concepts of damages were all to be submitted to the jury.

Potter Stewart:

Well, I understand that and that's accepted but that's because basically that the Jones Act was joined, isn't it, the Jones Act cause of action?

Theodore H. Friedman:

Yes I would say that, yes and no in this instance --

Potter Stewart:

You wouldn't quarrel, would you or would you that -- so that I can be clear.

If this is an action purely for maintenance and cure, it's not trialed by a jury, is that correct?

Exclusively for maintenance and cure --

Theodore H. Friedman:

Right, assuming no diversity of citizenship, it would be purely an admiralty if brought in the federal court because it could be brought under the common law in the state court where you would get a jury and --