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BRAEN v. PFEIFER OIL TRANSPORTATION CO.

decided: December 14, 1959.

BRAEN
v.
PFEIFER OIL TRANSPORTATION CO., INC.



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker, Stewart

Author: Douglas

[ 361 U.S. Page 129]

 MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner brought this suit under the Jones Act, 46 U. S. C. ยง 688, and recovered judgment after a jury trial. He was employed as mate on respondent's barge. On the day prior to the injury the barge came to respondent's

[ 361 U.S. Page 130]

     repair yard to have a cargo pump fixed. At this repair yard respondent maintained a covered lighter, known as the Winisook, which was used as a work barge. Its inshore side was connected with the dock by a plank runway. Between the Winisook and the dock was a raft used for chipping, painting, and welding on such barges as might need that service. The barge on which petitioner worked was not at this time being serviced by the raft. But the raft had been used in repair work on the barge at other times and now needed new decking.

The barge was moored to adjoin the open water side of the Winisook, the crew of the barge using a catwalk around the sides of the Winisook whenever they left or boarded the barge. The morning after the barge was moored, petitioner's supervisor ordered him to lay some decking on the raft, as petitioner had experience as a carpenter. Petitioner accordingly prepared to go to work on this new job assignment. As he was standing on the catwalk, preparatory to starting his work, releasing a line on the raft to permit him to maneuver it into place so he could board it, the catwalk gave way, causing the injury. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment for petitioner. 263 F.2d 147. We granted the petition for certiorari because that decision seemed to be out of line with the authorities. 359 U.S. 952.

In O'Donnell v. Great Lakes Co., 318 U.S. 36, a seaman was allowed to recover under the Jones Act even though he was injured on shore. The seaman was a deckhand. The ship was discharging her cargo through a conduit that was connected at its outer end to a land pipe by means of a gasket. The seaman in question was ordered by the master to go ashore to assist in repairing the gasket. While so engaged, he was injured by reason of the negligence of a fellow employee. We held that the words "in the course of his employment" as used in the Jones Act were not restricted to injuries occurring on navigable

[ 361 U.S. Page 131]

     waters, that they were broadly used by Congress in support of "all the constitutional power it possessed," id., at 39, and that it was constitutionally permissible for Congress to supplement the remedy of maintenance and cure by extending a right of recovery in trial by jury to a seaman injured "while in the service of his vessel by negligence." Id., at 43.

The test, as the O'Donnell case holds, is not whether the injury occurred on navigable waters, for that had been applied by the lower court, id., at 38, which we reversed. Rather it is whether the seaman was injured by negligence while "in the course of his employment."

The injured party must of course have "status as a member of the vessel" for it is seamen, not others who may work on the vessel (Swanson v. Marra Bros., 328 U.S. 1, 4), to whom Congress extended the protection of the Jones Act. Nice questions often arise concerning the status of particular workmen and whether their duties give them the status of "seamen" as that word is used in the Act. Desper v. Starved Rock Ferry Co., 342 U.S. 187. And see Gianfala v. Texas Co., 350 U.S. 879, reversing 222 F.2d 382; Senko v. LaCrosse Dredging Corp., 352 U.S. 370; Butler v. Whiteman, 356 U.S. 271. The court below apparently thought that at the moment petitioner was injured he was not a "seaman"; and that conclusion apparently turned on its view that to be such he had to be engaged at the time of the injury in work which was in furtherance of the navigation of the vessel. The court, indeed, held it error not to have given instructions to that effect.

At times the work done by an employee will be crucial in determining what his status is for purposes of recovery. South Chicago Co. v. Bassett, 309 U.S. 251, 260; Swanson v. Marra Bros., supra; Desper v. Starved Rock Ferry Co., supra; Pennsylvania R. Co. v. ...


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