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U.S. Supreme Court

O'Donnell v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 318 U.S. 36 (1943)

O'Donnell v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.

No. 320

Argued January 6, 1943

Decided February 1, 1943

318 U.S. 36


1. A deckhand in the service of a vessel plying navigable waters in interstate commerce, who was ordered by the master to go ashore and assist in repairing at its connection with a land pipe, a conduit through which the vessel was unloading cargo, and who, while thus engaged, was injured by the negligence of a fellow servant has a right of recovery under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 688, which gives a right of action to a seaman injured "in the course of his employment." P. 318 U. S. 38.

2. The Jones Act, as so applied, is constitutional even though the injury was inflicted while the seaman was on shore. P. 318 U. S. 43.

3. The constitutional authority of Congress to provide such a remedy for seamen derives from its authority to regulate commerce, and its power to make laws which shall be necessary and proper to carry into execution powers vested by the Constitution in the government or any department of it, including the judicial power chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 318 U. S. 37

which extends "to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction." P. 318 U. S. 39.

4. There is nothing in the constitutional grant of admiralty jurisdiction to preclude Congress from modifying or supplementing the rules of the maritime law as experience or changing conditions may require, at least with respect to those matters which traditionally have been within the cognizance of admiralty courts either because they are events occurring on navigable waters or because they are the subject matter of maritime contracts or relate to maritime services. P. 318 U. S. 40.

5. The right of recovery in the Jones Act is given to the seaman as such, and, as in the case of maintenance and cure, the admiralty jurisdiction over the suit depends not on the place where the injury is inflicted, but on the nature of the service and its relationship to the operation of the vessel plying in navigable waters. P. 318 U. S. 42.

6. Since the subject matter -- the seaman's right to compensation for injuries received in the course of his employment -- is one traditionally cognizable in admiralty, the Jones Act, by enlarging the remedy, did not go beyond modification of substantive rules of the maritime law well within the scope of the admiralty jurisdiction, whether the vessel, plying navigable waters be engaged in interstate commerce or not. P. 318 U. S. 43.

7. The fact that Congress has provided that suits under the Jones Act may be tried by jury on the law, rather than on the admiralty, side of the federal courts does not require a conclusion different from that here reached. P. 318 U. S. 43.

127 F.2d 901 reversed.

Certiorari, 317 U.S. 611, to review a judgment denying recovery in an action under the Jones Act.

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