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U.S. Supreme Court

Grant Smith-Porter Ship Co. v. Rohde, 257 U.S. 469 (1922)

Grant Smith-Porter Ship Co. v. Rohde

No. 35

Argued December 7, 1920

Decided January 3, 1922

257 U.S. 469


A workman employed generally as a carpenter by a builder of seagoing vessels was injured through the employer's negligence while engaged in construction work on a ship nearly completed and chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 257 U. S. 470

launched and lying in navigable waters of the United States in Oregon. Both parties had accepted the Oregon Workmen's Compensation Law, which, in the absence of its rejection by either employer or employee, requires the employer to make payments, including deductions from the employee's wages, to a compensation fund, specifies the sums which the employee may receive therefrom in case of injury, and declares they shall be in lieu of all claims against his employer on account of the injury.


(1) The general doctrine is that, in contract matters, admiralty jurisdiction depends upon the nature of the transaction, and, in tort matters, upon the locality. P. 257 U. S. 476.

(2) The general admiralty jurisdiction extends to a proceeding to recover damages resulting from a tort committed on a vessel in process of construction when lying on navigable waters within a state. P. 257 U. S. 477.

(3) But, in this case, since the contract for the construction of the vessel was nonmaritime, and since neither the employment of the workman nor his activities at the time of injury had any direct relation to commerce or navigation, the application of the Oregon Compensation Law, with reference to which employer and employee had contracted, could not materially affect any of the rules of the sea whose uniformity is essential, and was therefore permissible. P. 257 U. S. 477. Union Fish Co. v. Erickson, 248 U. S. 308; Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U. S. 205, and other cases distinguished.

(4) In view of its exclusive features, the Oregon Act abrogated the right of the employee to recover damages in an admiralty court, which otherwise would exist. P. 257 U. S. 478.

This was a proceeding in admiralty to recover damages for personal injuries resulting to an employee. The questions are determined on a certificate from the court below stating the facts. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 257 U. S. 473

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