SWIFT & CO. V. COMPANIA CARIBE, 339 U. S. 684 (1950)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Swift & Co. v. Compania Caribe, 339 U.S. 684 (1950)

Swift & Company Packers v. Compania Colombiana del Caribe, S.A.

No. 230

Argued December 14-15, 1949

Decided June 5, 1950

339 U.S. 684


Petitioners brought a libel in personam in the District Court for the Canal Zone against a steamship company on a claim arising upon a contract of affreightment supplemented by charges of negligence in the nondelivery of a sea cargo, and by process of foreign attachment secured the attachment of a vessel which the company allegedly had transferred to respondent in fraud of petitioners' rights. Concluding that there was no jurisdiction in admiralty to inquire into the alleged fraudulent transfer, and that, in any event, the exercise of jurisdiction would be inappropriate since the transfer had taken place between two foreign corporations and in a foreign country, the District Court vacated the attachment. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. The order of the District Court vacating the attachment was reviewable by the Court of Appeals under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Pp. 339 U. S. 688-689.

(a) The provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1291 for appeals to the courts of appeals only from final decisions of the district courts should not be construed so as to deny effective review of a claim fairly severable from the context of a larger litigious process. Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U. S. 541. Pp. 339 U. S. 688-689.

2. In the circumstances of this case, the District Court, to discharge its maritime jurisdiction, was not without power to determine whether the transfer of the vessel was fraudulent, and the power should be exercised. Pp. 339 U. S. 689-695.

3. In the posture of the case in the District Court, the vacation of the attachment was not justified by petitioners' failure to establish a prima facie case of fraud, although the ultimate burden of establishing a fraudulent transfer was upon them. Pp. 339 U. S. 695-696.

4. The District Court's order vacating the attachment was not justified as an exercise of discretion to decline jurisdiction under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Pp. 339 U. S. 697-698.

(a) It was improper under the circumstances here shown to remit a United States citizen to the courts of a foreign country

Page 339 U. S. 685

without assuring the citizen that respondents would appear in those courts and that security would be given equal to what had been obtained by attachment in the District Court. Pp. 339 U. S. 697-698.

175 F.2d 513 reversed.

An order of the District Court vacating the attachment of a vessel in an admiralty proceeding, 83 F.Supp. 273, was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 175 F.2d 513. This Court granted certiorari. 338 U.S. 813. Reversed and remanded, p. 339 U. S. 698.

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