Delome v. Union Barge Line Company

In Delome v. Union Barge Line Company., 444 F.2d 225 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 995, 92 S.Ct. 534, 30 L.Ed.2d 547 (1971), the Court held that jurisdiction over a shore-based shipfitter's seaworthiness claim against the ship owner did not depend on there being federal admiralty jurisdiction over a negligence claim against the ship owner arising from the same injury. In that case the injury occurred on a barge located on a marine railway with no part of it over navigable water. Although the court found that the vessel was "in navigation," it was not in navigable waters when Delome was injured and thus the locality requirement was not met and there was no admiralty tort jurisdiction over his negligence claim. The ship owner argued that the seaworthiness claim should have been dismissed for the same reason. Although the Court ultimately rejected the seaworthiness claim, we refused to do so on the ground that maritime tort jurisdiction had not been invoked. The Court recognized that "[t]he warranty of seaworthiness in personal injury cases essentially depends on neither common-law tort nor contract concepts. Instead, while the seaworthiness doctrine is comprised of both tort and contract elements, it is a creature of twentieth-century judicial policy concerning risk distribution in the shipping industry." Id., at 229. The Court further stated: "To hold, then, that this uniquely maritime cause of action is circumscribed by the same admiralty jurisdictional boundaries as common-law 'land' torts would contravene the risk distribution policy underlying the doctrine as well as common sense." Id., at 230.