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U.S. Supreme Court

Kernan v. American Dredging Co., 355 U.S. 426 (1958)

Kernan v. American Dredging Co.

No. 34

Argued November 21, 1957

Decided February 3, 1958

355 U.S. 426


A seaman lost his life on a tug which caught fire when an open flame kerosene lamp on the deck of a scow it was towing on a river at night ignited highly inflammable vapors lying above an accumulation of petroleum products spread over the surface of the river. The lamp was not more than three feet above the water, and the vapor would not have been ignited had the lamp been carried at the height of eight feet required by Coast Guard regulations. There was no collision or fault of navigation.

Held: under the Jones Act, which incorporates the provisions of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, the seaman's employer was liable, without a showing of negligence, for his death resulting from a violation of the Coast Guard regulations pertaining to navigation. Pp. 355 U. S. 427-439.

(a) The decisions of this Court in actions under the Federal Employers' Liability Act based upon violations of the Safety Appliance Acts and the Boiler Inspection Act establish that a violation of either Act creates liability without regard to negligence if the violation in fact contributes to the death or injury, without regard to whether the injury flowing from the breach was the injury the statute sought to prevent. Pp. 355 U. S. 430-436.

(b) The basis of liability established in those decisions is not confined to cases involving the Safety Appliance Acts or the Boiler Inspection Act, but extends also to deaths resulting from a violation of the Coast Guard regulations here involved. Pp. 355 U. S. 436-439.

(c) Under §1 of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, when a statutory violation results in a defect or insufficiency in appliances or other equipment, liability ensues without regard to whether the injury flowing from the violation was the injury the statute sought to guard against. Pp. 355 U. S. 437-439.

(d) The Jones Act expressly provides for seamen the cause of action -- and consequently the entire judicially developed doctrine of liability -- granted to railroad workers by the Federal Employers' Liability Act. P. 355 U. S. 439.

35 F.2d 618, 619, reversed and remanded. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 355 U. S. 427

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