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U.S. Supreme Court

Gutierrez v. Waterman Steamship Corp., 373 U.S. 206 (1963)

Gutierrez v. Waterman Steamship Corp.

No. 229

Argued March 21, 1963

Decided May 13, 1963

373 U.S. 206


While unloading a ship docked at a Puerto Rican port, a longshoreman suffered personal injuries when he slipped on some loose beans spilled on the dock from broken and defective bags being unloaded from the ship. He filed a libel in admiralty against the ship, claiming damages for injuries caused by the ship's unseaworthiness and by the negligence of its owner.


1. The case was within the maritime jurisdiction under the Extension of Admiralty Jurisdiction Act, since it was alleged that the shipowner committed a tort while or before the ship was being unloaded and the impact was felt ashore at a time and place not remote from the wrongful act. Pp. 373 U. S. 209-210.

2. This Court sustains the finding of the Trial Court that the shipowner was negligent in allowing the beans to be unloaded in their defective bagging when it knew or should have known that injury was likely to result to persons having to work about the beans that might, and did, spill, and that the shipowner was liable to the longshoreman for injuries resulting from such negligence, irrespective of its alleged lack of control of the impact zone. Pp. 373 U. S. 210-212.

3. When a shipowner accepts cargo in a faulty container or allows a container to become faulty, he assumes responsibility for injuries that this may cause to seamen or their substitutes on or about the ship; these leaky bean bags were unfit, and thus unseaworthy. Pp. 373 U. S. 212-214.

4. The duty to provide a seaworthy ship and gear, including cargo containers, applies to longshoremen unloading the ship, whether they are standing aboard ship or on the pier. Pp. 373 U. S. 214-215.

5. Although the longshoreman filed his libel over a year after expiration of the analogous Puerto Rican statute of limitations, the finding of the Trial Court that no prejudice to the shipowner was occasioned by the delay and that the longshoreman's claim therefore was not barred by laches is sustained as not plainly erroneous. Pp. 373 U. S. 215-216.

301 F.2d 415 reversed, and cause remanded. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 373 U. S. 207

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