CALDAROLA V. ECKERT, 332 U. S. 155 (1947)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Caldarola v. Eckert, 332 U.S. 155 (1947)

Caldarola v. Eckert

No. 625

Argued March 31, April 1, 1947

Decided June 23, 1947

332 U.S. 155


A stevedore, while aboard and engaged in unloading a vessel owned by the United States and managed by General Agents under a general agency contract, was injured by a defective boom. He sued the Agents for damages in a state court.


1. The injury was a maritime tort and the state court had jurisdiction by virtue of § 9 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which saves "to suitors, in all cases, the right of a common law remedy, where the common law is competent to give it." P. 332 U. S. 157.

2. The determination of the state court that a business invitee, such as the stevedore, is without a remedy in the courts of the state against one who has no control and possession of the premises is decisive. P. 332 U. S. 158.

3. To the extent that the determination of tort liability in the state court involves the construction of the contract between the Agents and the United States, the interpretation of the contract presents a federal question upon which the determination of the state court is not conclusive. P. 332 U. S. 158.

4. If, on a fair reading of the contract, the control which the Agents had over the vessel is the kind of control which the state requires as a basis of liability to third persons, the state courts cannot so read the contract as to deny the right which the state recognizes. P. 332 U. S. 158.

5. Under the contract with the United States, the Agents are not to be deemed owners pro hac vice in possession and control of the vessel. Pp. 332 U. S. 158-159.

6. Hust v. Moore-McCormack Lines, 328 U. S. 707, and Brady v. Roosevelt S.S. Co., 317 U. S. 575, differentiated. Pp. 332 U. S. 159-160.

295 N.Y. 463, 68 N.E.2d 444, affirmed.

Petitioner sued respondents in a state court of New York to recover damages for injuries sustained aboard a vessel which respondents were managing as General Agents under a contract with the United States. A verdict

Page 332 U. S. 156

for the petitioner was set aside by the Appellate Division. 270 App.Div. 563, 61 N.Y.S.2d 164. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 295 N.Y. 463, 68 N.E.2d 444. This Court granted certiorari. 329 U.S. 704. Affirmed, p. 332 U. S. 160.

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