The opinion of the court was delivered by: LINDBERG
This action is before the court upon defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint. The facts giving rise to the motion are not in dispute.
Plaintiff, a longshoreman unloading the SS SANTA JUANA, slipped from a hold ladder and suffered injuries. Under section 5 of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act,
the plaintiff sought and was awarded compensation in the sum of $ 4,822.05. He now brings an action in personam, and not in rem, for unseaworthiness against his employer, Grace Line, Inc. Grace Line is also the owner of the SANTA JUANA.
A simple comparison of the Act and the action would suggest that the cause is vulnerable to summary dismissal. However, the case law forbids this easy course.
Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki, (1946) 328 U.S. 85, 66 S. Ct. 872, 90 L. Ed. 1099, initiated the trend towards the present situation. It held that a ship's traditional obligation of seaworthiness, always owed to seamen, also extended to stevedores working aboard the ship. Despite the petitioner's contrary urgings in that case the court felt the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act did not prevent extension of the traditional seaman's remedies to stevedores. While Mr. Justice Stone in dissent at the time commented that under the court's ruling stevedores would have remedies not even accorded the crew,
the court nonetheless held longshoremen eligible for compensation under the Act and for redress under traditional maritime law. The employer was thus exposed to an uncertain liability.
This uncertainty was emphasized by Ryan Stevedoring Co. v. Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation (1956), 350 U.S. 127, 76 S. Ct. 232, 100 L. Ed. 133. A worker employed by an independent stevedoring company was injured aboard the ship. He recovered against the ship but the ship in turn was granted indemnity against the employer, the stevedoring company. The indemnity was granted even though there was no indemnity clause in the contract between the ship owner and the stevedoring company.
The case at bar is factually much like Reed. However, the plaintiff urges a further extension of the trend by permitting a suit directly against the employer, in personam. Such a ruling would bring the case law into immediate opposition with the wording of the statute, a position this court declines to assume. This court will not, in this instance anticipate the reaction of the Supreme Court.