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U.S. Supreme Court

A. & Gulf Stevedores v. Ellerman Lines, Ltd., 369 U.S. 355 (1962)

Atlantic & Gulf Stevedores, Inc. v. Ellerman Lines, Ltd.

No. 282

Argued February 20, 1962

Decided April 2, 1962

369 U.S. 355


A longshoreman employed by petitioner, a stevedoring contractor, was injured while helping to unload a vessel, and he sued respondents, the shipowners, in a Federal District Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship, alleging that the vessel was unseaworthy and that they were negligent. Respondents impleaded petitioner and asked indemnity, alleging that it was negligent in the manner of unloading. The jury found that the injury resulted from unseaworthiness of the vessel and negligence of respondents, and not from any failure of petitioner to do its work in accordance with its contract. The District Court entered judgment in favor of the longshoreman against respondents and in favor of petitioner on respondents' claim for indemnity. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in favor of the longshoreman, but reversed the judgment in favor of petitioner on the ground that it also was negligent.

Held: redetermination by the Court of Appeals of the facts found by the jury was contrary to the provision of the Seventh Amendment that "no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law." Pp. 369 U. S. 356-364.

(a) Even though a stevedoring contract is a maritime contract, the Seventh Amendment was applicable in this case, because the suit, being in a Federal Court by reason of diversity of citizenship, carried with it the right to trial by jury. Pp. 369 U. S. 359-360.

(b) On the record in this case, it cannot be said that petitioner was liable as a matter of law, that the trial judge, in the charge to the jury, omitted any ingredient from petitioner's contractual liability, or that the jury's verdict was inconsistent. Pp. 369 U. S. 360-364.

(c) Where an appellate court is asked to review the jury's answers to special interrogatories, the Seventh Amendment prohibits a reversal on the ground that the jury's answers are inconsistent if, under any view of the case, they are, or can be made, consistent. P. 369 U. S. 364.

289 F.2d 201, reversed.

Page 369 U. S. 356

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