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U.S. Supreme Court

British Transport Comm'n v. United States, 354 U.S. 129 (1957)

British Transport Commission v. United States

No. 247

Argued April 29, 1957

Decided June 10, 1957

354 U.S. 129


Under the Limited Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 181-196, the United States filed a proceeding in a Federal District Court for exoneration from, or limitation of liability for, loss or damage resulting from a collision in the North Sea between one of its ships and a ship owned by the British Transport Commission. The Commission and others filed claims in the proceeding. While the proceeding was pending, some of the claimants against the American ship filed cross-claims against the British ship, and the United States asserted a "set-off" and a "cross-claim" against the British ship in answer to the latter's claim.

Held: the claimants against the British ship may implead the Commission to respond to any damages for losses suffered by them in the collision, and the court having jurisdiction of the limitation proceeding may proceed to settle all questions appropriate to, and seasonably raised in, that proceeding by parties thereto. Pp. 354 U. S. 130-143.

(a) Whether it be by analogy to Admiralty Rule 56, or by virtue of Admiralty Rule 44, or by admiralty's general rules heretofore promulgated by this Court, it is a necessary concomitant of jurisdiction in a factual situation such as this that the court have power to adjudicate all of the demands made and arising out of the same disaster. Pp. 354 U. S. 135-139.

(b) Fairness in litigation requires that those who seek affirmative recovery in a court should be subject therein to like exposure for the damage resulting from their acts connected with the identical incident. Pp. 354 U. S. 141-143.

(c) In the final analysis, the manifest advantages of this cross-claim procedure serve the best interests of all the parties before a court of the United States who find themselves the unfortunate victims of maritime disaster. P. 354 U. S. 143.

230 F.2d 139, affirmed.

Page 354 U. S. 130

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