Messrs. M. M. Doyle, of Washington, D.C., and William Martin, of Seattle, Wash., for petitioner. [291 U.S. 315, 316] Messrs. Roszel C. Thomsen and Walter L. Clark, both of Baltimore, Md., for respondents.
Mr. Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Louis H. Murray, a steel erector, died as the result of a fall from a crane which was being erected by his employers, the respondents, in the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Wash. The petitioner, his widow, brought action, on her own and her minor child's behalf, alleging the decedent's death was caused by the respondents' negligence. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the declaration, holding the action was not maintainable by the widow and daughter as beneficiaries under the Washington Workmen's Compensation Act, since that act was not in force in the navy yard; and if it were considered a suit for death by wrongful act, the applicable state statute required that it be instituted by the personal representative of the decedent. The petitioner, although she was also administratrix, refused to amend and claim in virtue of her status as such, and stood upon the declaration. A judgment in favor of respondents was affirmed by the Supreme Court. 1
In the petition for certiorari it is asserted that the state courts misconstrued the Act of Congress of February 1, 1928 (16 USCA 457). This court consequently has jurisdiction. The question of the bearing of the federal act upon the right to maintain the action requires the statement of additional facts.
By a statute passed in 18912 the state consented to the acquisition of a tract of land by the United States for a navy yard or other specified uses, and ceded jurisdiction [291 U.S. 315, 317] over the same to the federal government, retaining only concurrent jurisdiction for the service of civil and criminal process issued under the authority of the state. Pursuant to this consent, the United States acquired what is now known as Puget Sound Navy Yard. At that time a state statute was in force permitting the heirs or personal representatives of one dying as a result of negligence to maintain suit against the wrongdoer.