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LAKE TANKERS CORP. V. HENN, 354 U. S. 147 (1957)

U.S. Supreme Court

Lake Tankers Corp. v. Henn, 354 U.S. 147 (1957)

Lake Tankers Corp. v. Henn

No. 445

Argued May 6, 1957

Decided June 10, 1957

354 U.S. 147


Petitioner brought this proceeding in a Federal District Court under the Limited Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 181-196, to limit its liability for claims growing out of a collision between petitioner's tug and barge and a pleasure yacht. Suits previously brought in state courts, by respondent for the death of her husband, and by four other claimants for personal injuries and the loss of the yacht, originally involved claims for damages aggregating more than the value of petitioner's vessels and their pending freight, but the aggregate amount recoverable on such claims was reduced by stipulations and admiralty court orders to an amount less than the value of the vessels and their pending freight. The value of the vessels was undisputed; the claims were fixed; there was no contention that there might be further claims; the fund indubitably was sufficient to pay all claims in full; and the admiralty court had dissolved its injunction against respondent's suit in the state court.

Held: in this situation, a concursus beyond that required by the orders heretofore entered in the limitation proceeding is not necessary, and respondent may proceed with her suit in the state court to determine petitioner's obligation to respond in damages for the loss of her husband's life subject to the continuing jurisdiction of the federal court to protect petitioner's right to limited liability. Pp. 354 U. S. 148-154.

(a) Where the fund paid into the proceedings by the offending owner exceeds the claims made against it, there is no necessity for the maintenance of the concourse. P. 354 U. S. 152.

(b) The Act is not one of immunity from liability, and it confers no privilege on the shipowner other than that granting him limited liability. Pp. 354 U. S. 152-153.

(c) In view of the reservation to such suitors of their common law remedies by 28 U.S. C. § 1333, respondent must not be thwarted in her attempt to employ her common law remedy in the state court, where she may obtain trial by jury. P. 354 U. S. 153.

(d) Maryland Casualty Co. v. Cushing, 347 U. S. 409, distinguished. Pp. 354 U. S. 153-154.

232 F.2d 573, 235 F.2d 783, affirmed.

Page 354 U. S. 148

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