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WEINSTEIN v. UNITED STATES

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


December 12, 1961

Dorothy WEINSTEIN, Executrix of the Estate of Ralph Weinstein, Deceased
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Eastern Airlines, Inc., General Motors Corporation and Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Thelma P. FREEMAN and Provident Tradesmens Bank and Trust Company, Co-Executors of the Estate of Addison B. Freeman, Jr., Deceased v. UNITED STATES of America, Eastern Airlines, Inc., General Motors Corporation and Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Mary B. GRICE, Executrix of the Estate of David S. Grice, Deceased v. UNITED STATES of America, Eastern Airlines, Inc., General Motors Corporation and Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Diane BRAFF, Administratrix ad Prosequendum and as General Administratrix of the Estate of Bernard Jay Braff, Deceased v. UNITED STATES of America, Eastern Airlines, Inc., General Motors Corporation and Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Edna E. LONG and Laura Manney, Administratrices of the Estate of Shirley E. Reitz, Deceased v. UNITED STATES of America, Eastern Airlines, Inc., General Motors Corporation and Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Attilio E. ABATE, Administrator of the Estate of Frederick N. Abate, Deceased v. UNITED STATES of America, Eastern Airlines, Inc., General Motors Corporation and Lockheed Aircraft Corporation

The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUSEN

These admiralty actions are before the court on exceptive allegations filed by respondent, United States of America, and arise out of the crash of an airplane in navigable waters of Boston Harbor one minute after lift-off from Logan International Airport, Boston, on October 4, 1960, allegedly due to the negligence of the agents, servants and employees of the United States of America and resulting in the death of libellants' decedents, who were passengers for hire on such plane. Since the libellants concede that they rely on the Federal Tort Claims Act, Act of 8/2/46, c. 753, 60 Stat. 843, as the basis of this court's jurisdiction and that Act only gives this court jurisdiction over civil actions, the exceptive allegations must be sustained for lack of jurisdiction *fn1" and it is not necessary to consider the other grounds relied on by this respondent. See Steamtug Aladdin, Inc. v. City of Boston, 163 F.Supp. 499 (D.Mass.1958), and Cornell Steamboat Company v. United States, 138 F.Supp. 16, 19 (S.D.N.Y.1956); *fn2" cf. Forgione v. United States, 202 F.2d 249, 252 (3rd Cir. 1953), cert. den. 345 U.S. 966, 73 S. Ct. 950, 97 L. Ed. 1384 (1953).

The Federal Tort Claims Act is found in 28 U.S.C.A. § 1346(b), § 2402, and §§ 2671-2680. 28 U.S.C.A. § 1346(b) provides:

 'Subject to the provisions of chapter 171 *fn3" of this title, the district courts * * * shall have exclusive jurisdiction of civil actions on claims against the United States, for money damages, accruing on and after January 1, 1945, for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government * * *. (Emphasis supplied.)

 A 'civil action' is the one form of action brought under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (F.R.Civ.P. 1, 28 U.S.C.A.), which were in effect when Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act in 1946, *fn4" and F.R.Civ.P. 81(a)1 1 provides 'These rules do not apply to proceedings in admiralty.' *fn5" In view of the foregoing language, it is clear that Congress provided that district courts had jurisdiction only of suits filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act as civil actions, and the United States of America has not consented to be sued in any other way *fn6" in suits based on the factual situation set forth in these Libels. In the Steamtug Aladdin, Inc, case, supra, Judge Wyzanski used this language 163 F.Supp. at page 501:

 'Yet absent a statute, this duty, while it rests on others, could not be imposed upon the United States, -- it, as a sovereign, being immune both from any obligation in tort, and from any remedy sought against it either in admiralty or at common law. Thus the question is whether such a statute exists. No statute has imposed upon the United States any obligation in admiralty, or any remedy pursuable in the admiralty jurisdiction. However, tort obligations at law, parallel to those resting upon private persons, have been not only imposed upon the United States but also made enforceable in civil actions by injured parties against the United States. This is the obvious purport of the Federal Tort Claims Act. Hence the allegations in the libel that the United States was in control of the bridge and allowed loose timbers to protrude therefrom causing injury to the claimant are adequate to sustain a civil action, but not an admiralty suit.'

 It is noted that libellants concede at page 24 of their brief (Document No. 23) that 'technically there does not exist the proper venue in three of the Libels,' namely, Abate, etc. v. United States, et al., Braff, etc. v. United States et al., and Long et al., etc. v. United States et al.

 Order

 And Now, December 12, 1961, It Is Ordered that the Exceptions Of Respondent United States of America in the above-captioned admiralty actions are Sustained, and these actions, insofar as they have been brought against the United States of America, respondent, are Dismissed, without prejudice.


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