American Stevedores, Inc. v. Porello

In American Stevedores, Inc. v. Rosario Porello, 330 U.S. 446, 67 S.Ct. 847, 91 L.Ed. 1011 (1947), the Court was confronted with the claim of Porello, a longshoreman injured while working in the hold of a public vessel. He had first received compensation checks under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. Secs. 901-950, but thereafter gave notice, 33 U.S.C. Sec. 933(a), of his election to sue the United States as a third party tortfeasor. The government first claimed sovereign immunity and that by earlier accepting compensation, Porello had lost his right to sue it as a third party tortfeasor. To the Court, the important issue was whether the Public Vessels Act, 1925, (PVA) makes the United States liable for damages on account of personal injuries. Sounding the broad purpose of the enactment of SIA and PVA the Court characterized them as "as attesting ... the growing feeling of Congress that the United States should put aside its sovereign armor in cases where federal employees have tortiously caused personal injury or property damage." 330 U.S. at 453, 67 S.Ct. at 851, 91 L.Ed. at 1018. The Court concluded that PVA read in the light of its legislative history evinces no "congressional intent ... to provide only a remedy to the owners of damaged property". Id. Nor does acceptance of compensation preclude the injured employee from suing under PVA. Id. In American Stevedores, Inc. v. Porello, 330 U. S. 446 (1947), the Supreme Court had before it a contractual provision. There the Supreme Court noted that the clause was susceptible of several different constructions, 330 U. S., at 457-458, and remanded the case to the District Court to ascertain the intention of the parties with respect to the clause. In Porello there were clear indications from the parties that further evidentiary proceedings in the District Court would shed light on the actual intention of the parties.