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Thames Co. v. the "FRANCIS McDONALD"

U.S.
Dec 6, 1920
254 U.S. 242 (1920)

Summary

holding in a contract case that shipbuilding has been considered a nonmaritime activity, whether or not the incomplete ship has been launched

Summary of this case from Cain v. Transocean Offshore

Opinion

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.

No. 97.

Argued November 18, 1920. Decided December 6, 1920.

The rule that contracts for the construction of ships are non-maritime and not within the admiralty jurisdiction applies to contracts for the work and material necessary to finish a partly constructed vessel which has been launched. P. 243. Affirmed.

THE case is stated in the opinion.

Mr. Samuel Park, with whom Mr. Henry E. Mattison was on the brief, for appellant.

Mr. Mark Ash, with whom Mr. Peter Alexander was on the brief, for appellee.


The libel was dismissed for want of jurisdiction and the cause is here on that question only.

Seeking to recover for alleged supplies furnished and repairs made to the schooner "Francis McDonald" appellant libeled the vessel in United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

Under a definite contract the Palmer Shipbuilding Company began construction of the schooner at Groton, Connecticut, and launched the hull. That company found itself unable to proceed further, thereupon appellant agreed with the owner to complete the work and for such purpose the hull was towed to its yard at New London. While lying there in the stream the materials, work and labor for which recovery is now sought were furnished. Later the vessel, so advanced, was towed to Hoboken and finished by a third company. When received by appellant the schooner was manifestly incomplete — her masts were not in, the bolts and beams and gaff were lying on deck, the forward house was not built, and she was not "in condition to carry on any service." Appellant worked on her for six weeks, and thirty or forty more days were required to finish her.

Was appellant's contract to furnish the materials, work and labor for her completion, made after the schooner was launched but while yet not sufficiently advanced to discharge the functions for which intended, within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction? The District Court thought not and so do we.

Under decisions of this court the settled rule is that a contract for the complete construction of a ship or supplying materials therefor is non-maritime and not within the admiralty jurisdiction. People's Ferry Co. v. Beers, 20 How. 393; Roach v. Chapman, 22 How. 129; Edwards v. Elliott, 21 Wall. 532; The Winnebago, 205 U.S. 354, 363; North Pacific S.S. Co. v. Hall Bros. Co., 249 U.S. 119, 125.

But counsel for appellant insist that there is a broad distinction between such a contract and one for work and material to finish a vessel after she has been launched and is water-borne. In support of this position they rely upon The Eliza Ladd (1875), Fed. Cases No. 4364; The Revenue Cutter (1877), Fed. Cases No. 11714; both by Judge Deady, in the United States District Court for Oregon — The Manhattan, District Court for Washington (1891), 46 F. 797, which followed the District Court for Oregon; and Tucker v. Alexandroff, 183 U.S. 424, 438. The first three cases are directly in point, but are opposed by many of no less authority. Tucker v. Alexandroff must be read in the light of the particular matter under consideration — detention of a foreign seaman — and the conclusion announced, that after the vessel was launched "she was a ship within the meaning of the treaty." The court had no immediate concern with contracts for ship construction, and there was no purpose to lay down any definite rule applicable to them. On the other side the following cases are cited, and they are entitled to the greater weight: The Iosco, Fed. Cases No. 7060; The Pacific, 9 F. 120; The Count de Lesseps, 17 F. 460; The Glenmont, 32 F. 703, and 34 F. 402; The Paradox, 61 F. 860; McMaster v. One Dredge, 95 F. 832; The United Shores, 193 F. 552; The Dredge A, 217 F. 617; The Winnebago, 205 U.S. 354, 363; North Pacific S.S. Co. v. Hall Bros. Co., 249 U.S. 119, 125.

Notwithstanding possible and once not inappropriate criticism, the doctrine is now firmly established that contracts to construct entirely new ships are non-maritime because not nearly enough related to any rights and duties pertaining to commerce and navigation. It is said that in no proper sense can they be regarded as directly and immediately connected with navigation or commerce by water. Edwards v. Elliott, 21 Wall. 532, 554, 555; The William Windom, 73 F. 496; Pacific Surety Co. v. Leatham Smith Towing Co., 151 F. 440. And we think the same reasons which exclude such contracts from admiralty jurisdiction likewise apply to agreements made after the hull is in the water, for the work and material necessary to consummate a partial construction and bring the vessel into condition to function as intended.

The judgment of the court below is

Affirmed.


Summaries of

Thames Co. v. the "FRANCIS McDONALD"

U.S.
Dec 6, 1920
254 U.S. 242 (1920)

holding in a contract case that shipbuilding has been considered a nonmaritime activity, whether or not the incomplete ship has been launched

Summary of this case from Cain v. Transocean Offshore

holding that contracts to construct entirely new vessels are non-maritime

Summary of this case from Bunge Corp. v. Freeport Marine Repair, Inc.

holding that work made on a schooner which had been launched but not completed to the point where the vessel could function as intended is not within admiralty jurisdiction

Summary of this case from Hatteras of Lauderdale, Inc. v. Gemini Lady

holding that services and materials furnished to an already launched but uncompleted hull did not give rise to a claim in admiralty

Summary of this case from Berge Helene Ltd. v. GE Oil & Gas, Inc.

holding that work made on a schooner which had been launched but not completed to the point where the vessel could function as intended is not within admiralty jurisdiction.

Summary of this case from LADY DI FISHING TEAM, LLC v. BRUNSWICK CORPORATION

holding that a contract to work on a vessel "not sufficiently advanced to discharge the functions for which intended" or not in a "condition to function as intended" was not maritime in nature

Summary of this case from Great American Ins. Co. v. Miller Marine Yacht Services

furnishing of labor and materials to launched but incomplete vessel

Summary of this case from Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court

In Thames Towboat Co. v. The Schooner FRANCIS MCDONALD, 254 U.S. 242 (1920). the Court held that a contract to work on a vessel "not sufficiently advanced to discharge the functions for which intended" or not yet in a "condition to function as intended" is not maritime in nature.

Summary of this case from HYUNDAI HEAVY INDUSTRIES, CO. v. M/V SAIBOS FDS

In Thames Towboat, the Supreme Court regarded the work done as being for the purpose of completing the original construction, and the contract was accordingly held to be non-maritime. Reasonable doubts concerning whether a contract is for construction or repairs should be resolved in favor of admiralty jurisdiction.

Summary of this case from Hatteras of Lauderdale v. Gemini Lady

In Thames Towboat Co. v. The 'Francis McDonald', 254 U.S. 242, 41 S.Ct. 65, 65 L.Ed. 245, (1920), the Court stated that an agreement providing for complete construction of a ship is not within admiralty jurisdiction.

Summary of this case from Silver v. Sloop Silver Cloud

In Thames Towboat Co. v. The Francis McDonald, 254 U.S. 242, 41 S.Ct. 65, 66, 65 L.Ed. 245, the Court followed Peoples Ferry Co. of Boston v. Beers, but said: "Notwithstanding possible and once not inappropriate criticism, the doctrine is now firmly established that contracts to construct entirely new ships are nonmaritime because not nearly enough related to any rights and duties pertaining to commerce and navigation. It is said that in no proper sense can they be regarded as directly and immediately connected with navigation or commerce by water."

Summary of this case from Flota Maritima Browning De Cuba v. The Ciudad De La Habana
Case details for

Thames Co. v. the "FRANCIS McDONALD"

Case Details

Full title:THAMES TOWBOAT COMPANY v . THE SCHOONER "FRANCIS McDONALD," HER TACKLE…

Court:U.S.

Date published: Dec 6, 1920

Citations

254 U.S. 242 (1920)
41 S. Ct. 65

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