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U.S. Supreme Court

Garrett v. Moore-McCormack Co, Inc., 317 U.S. 239 (1942)

Garrett v. Moore-McCormack Co, Inc.

No. 67

Argued November 12, 1942

Decided December 14, 1942

317 U.S. 239


1. In a suit by a seaman in a state court for damages under § 33 of the Merchant Marine Act and for maintenance and cure, the rights of the parties are measured by the federal statute and admiralty principles. P. 317 U. S. 243.

2. The question whether a state court, in an action for damages under § 33 of the Merchant Marine Act and for maintenance and cure, protected all the substantial rights of the parties under controlling federal law is a federal question reviewable under § 237(b) of the Judicial Code. P. 317 U. S. 245.

3. A shipowner who, in defense of an action by a seaman for personal injuries, sets up the seaman's release is under the burden of proving that it was executed freely, without deception or coercion, and that it was made by the seaman with full understanding of his rights. The adequacy of the consideration and the nature of the medical and legal advice available to the seaman at the time of signing the release are relevant to an appraisal of this understanding. P. 317 U. S. 246.

4. This general admiralty rule applies not only to actions for maintenance and cure, but also to actions for damages under § 33 of the Merchant Marine Act. P. 317 U. S. 248.

5. Section 33 of the Merchant Marine Act is to be liberally construed for the seaman's protection; it is an integral part of the maritime law, and rights fashioned by it are to be implemented by admiralty rules not inconsistent with the Act. P. 317 U. S. 248. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 317 U. S. 240

6. The right of a seaman suing in a Pennsylvania court under § 33 of the Merchant Marine Act to be free from the burden of proof imposed by Pennsylvania law upon one attacking the validity of a written release is a substantive right inherent in his cause of action. P. 317 U. S. 249.

344 Pa. 69, 23 A.2d 503, reversed.

Certiorari, 316 U.S. 656, to review the affirmance of a judgment non obstante veredicto rendered against the present petitioner in a suit for damages and for maintenance and cure.

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