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U.S. Supreme Court

South Chicago Coal & Dock Co. v. Bassett, 309 U.S. 251 (1940)

South Chicago Coal & Dock Co. v. Bassett

No. 262

Argued January 11, 1940

Decided February 26, 1940

309 U.S. 251


1. In providing by the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act for payment by employers of compensation for injuries or death suffered by employees engaged in maritime employment on vessels in navigable waters, Congress exerted its constitutional power to modify the admiralty law. P. 309 U. S. 256.

Page 309 U. S. 252

2. The classification excepting from the Act a "master or member of a crew of any vessel," § 3(a)(1), was within that power. P. 309 U. S. 256.

3. The Act applies to those who serve on vessels as laborers, whose work is of the sort performed by longshoremen and harbor workers, and who are thus distinguished from those employees who are naturally and primarily on board to aid in navigation. P. 309 U. S. 257.

4. Insofar as the decision whether an injured employee was or was not a "member of the crew" turns on a question of fact, the authority to determine is conferred by the Act on the deputy commissioner, and his finding, if sustained by evidence, is conclusive, and must be accepted by the District Court without attempting a new trial. P. 309 U. S. 257.

5. The legal meaning of the word "crew" must be determined with reference to the context and purpose of the particular statute in which the word is used. P. 309 U. S. 258.

6. The fact that the boat's captain, to make up the complement of "deckhands" required by a certificate of inspection, included the employee whose status under this Act is in question does not fix his status as that of a member of the crew. The question concerns his actual duties. P. 309 U. S. 260.

7. Evidence held sufficient to sustain a finding by a deputy commissioner that the person on account of whose death compensation was claimed under the above-mentioned Act was not a member of the crew. P. 309 U. S. 260.

104 F.2d 522 affirmed.

Certiorari, 308 U.S. 532, to review the reversal of a judgment of the District Court vacating an award under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act.

Page 309 U. S. 253

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