WARREN V. UNITED STATES, 340 U. S. 523 (1951)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Warren v. United States, 340 U.S. 523 (1951)

Warren v. United States

No. 87

Argued January 2, 1951

Decided February 26, 1951

340 U.S. 523


Petitioner, a messman on a ship owned by the United States, went ashore on leave while the vessel was at Naples. He and two other members of the crew did some sightseeing, drank a bottle of wine together, and then spent an hour and a half at a dance hall. A room adjoining the dance hall and overlooking the sea had French doors opening onto an unprotected ledge. Petitioner stepped onto the ledge, grasped an iron rod which seemed to be attached to the building, and leaned forward to take a look. The iron rod broke off, and petitioner lost his balance, fell, and broke his leg.

Held: petitioner was entitled to recover from the United States for maintenance and cure. Pp. 340 U. S. 524-530.

1. The exceptions to the liability of shipowners, which the Shipowners' Liability Convention, Art. 2, par. 2, permits to be made by "national laws or regulations" are operative by virtue of the general maritime law, and no Act of Congress is necessary to give them force. Pp. 340 U. S. 525-526.

(a) As used in Art. 2, par. 2 of the Convention, the term "national laws or regulations" includes the rules of court decisions, as well as legislative acts. Pp. 340 U. S. 526-528.

(b) Both paragraph 1 and paragraph 2 of Article 2 of the Convention state the standard of liability which legislative and decisional law define in particularity. Pp. 340 U. S. 527-528.

2. Petitioner's injury was not due to his "willful act, default or misbehaviour," within the meaning of Art. 2, par. 2(b) of the Convention, and recovery was not barred thereby. Pp. 340 U. S. 528-529.

3. Petitioner's injury occurred "in the service of the ship," within the meaning of that term as used in Art. 2, par. 2(a) of the Convention. Pp. 340 U. S. 529-530.

179 F.2d 919, reversed.

In a suit by petitioner for maintenance and cure, the District Court awarded maintenance. 75 F.Supp. 210, 76 F.Supp. 735. The Court of Appeals disallowed it. 179 F.2d 919. This Court granted certiorari. 340 U.S. 806. Reversed, p. 340 U. S. 530. chanrobles.com-red

Page 340 U. S. 524