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SEA-LAND SVCS., INC. V. GAUDET, 414 U. S. 573 (1974)

U.S. Supreme Court

Sea-Land Svcs., Inc. v. Gaudet, 414 U.S. 573 (1974)

Sea-Land Services, Inc. v. Gaudet

No. 72-1019

Argued November 7, 1973

Decided January 21, 1974

414 U.S. 573


Respondent's husband, a longshoreman, was severely injured aboard petitioner's vessel in Louisiana navigable waters. Shortly after termination of an action based on unseaworthiness, in which he recovered damages for past and future wages, pain and suffering, and medical and incidental expenses, the husband died, and respondent brought this maritime wrongful death action for damages suffered by her. The District Court dismissed respondent's suit on grounds of res judicata and failure to state a claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, on the basis of Morange v. States Marine Lines, 398 U. S. 375.

Held: Respondent's maritime wrongful death action is not barred by decedent's recovery in his lifetime for damages for his personal injuries. Pp. 414 U. S. 575-S95.

(a) Moragne v. States Marine Lines, supra, created a true wrongful death remedy that is founded upon the death itself, and is independent of any action the decedent may have had for his own personal injuries, and because respondent's suit thus involves a different cause of action from decedent's, it is not precluded by res judicata. Pp. 414 U. S. 575-583.

(b) The maritime wrongful death remedy permits a decedent's dependents to recover damages for loss of support, services, and society, as well as damages for funeral expenses. Pp. 414 U. S. 583-591.

(c) All but the first of the foregoing elements of damages could not accrue until the decedent's, death and therefore could not subject petitioner to double liability. Though there is an apparent overlap between a decedent's recovery for loss of future wages and the dependents' subsequent claim for support, the doctrine of collateral estoppel would bar dependents from recovering for loss of support to the extent that the decedent had recovered for future wages. Pp. 414 U. S. 591-595.

463 F.2d 1331, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. POWELL, J.,

Page 414 U. S. 574

filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 414 U. S. 595.

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