UNITED STATES STEEL PRODUCTS CO. v. ADAMS(1928)
Mr. John M. Woolsey, of New York City, for petitioners.
Mr. Silas Blake Axtell, of New York City, for respondent.
Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
November 29, 1921, at New Orleans, La., respondent Adams signed articles for services as oiler on the Steel [275 U.S. 388, 389] Trader during a voyage from that city to East Indian ports and return, at $ 80 per month. December 12, 1921, after the voyage began, and while at Port Arthur, Tex., he was discharged without fault on his part and without his consent. He received before a shipping commissioner the wages earned and $ 80 more. The vessel returned to New Orleans May 19, 1922. Thereafter Adams instituted this proceeding in rem, wherein he sought to recover as damages the stipulated wages from December 12, 1921, to May 19, 1922, plus $2.50 per day for subsistence. The trial court granted recovery for the amount of such wages ($414.50), less $80, with interest from May 19, 1922 (10 F. ( 2) 248, 250), and the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that action (13 F. ( 2d) 614).
The only matter for our consideration is the proper interpretation and construction of section 4527, Rev. St. U. S. (section 21, c. 322, Act of June 7, 1872, 17 Stat. 266; U. S. C. title 46, 594 (46 USCA 594; Comp. St. 8318)), which follows:
Chapter 322, Act of June 7, 1872-68 sections-prescribes elaborate regulations concerning employment, wages, treatment, and protection of seamen. Inter-Island Steam Navigation Co. v. Byrne, 239 U.S. 459, 460 , 36 S. Ct. 132. Section 21 became section 4527, R. S., without material change.
The trial court held that section 4527 applies only to a wrongful discharge before commencement of the voyage. [275 U.S. 388, 390] The Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that 'the language of R. S. 4527, is consistent with an intention to treat the amount required to be paid to the wrongfully discharged seaman as compensation for the service already rendered by him,' and that payment thereof does not absolve from liability for breach of the shipping articles.
We think both courts adopted improper views. According to the plain language employed, the section in question applies where the discharge takes place before the commencement of the voyage or before one month's wages are earned. Also we think, in the specified circumstances, payment of wages actually earned, with an additional sum equal to one month's wages, satisfies all liability for breach of the contract of employment by wrongful discharge. The legislation was intended to afford seamen a simple, summary method of establishing and enforcing damages.
Mr. Conger, who reported the bill, which later became the Act of June 7, 1872, for the committee and had charge of it in the House of Representatives, there stated:
The Shipping Act of 1854 provides:
Speaking of section 167 in Tindle v. Davison (Queen's Bench Div. 1892) 66 L. T. N. S. 372, 374, Wright, J., said:
The word 'compensation,' in section 4527, distinctly indicates that payment of a sum equal to one month's wages was intended to constitute the remedy for invasion of the seaman's right through breach of his contract of employment in the circumstances specified. 'Damages consist in compensation for loss sustained. ... By the general system of our law, for every invasion of right there is a remedy, and that remedy is compensation. This compensation is furnished in the damages which are awarded.' Sedgwick's Damages (9th Ed.) vol. 1, p. 24. See, also, Bauman v. Ross, 167 U.S. 548 , 17 S. Ct. 966. The provision that such sum may be recovered 'as if it were wages duly earned' permits the seaman to enforce payment by the [275 U.S. 388, 392] special and summary methods provided for collecting his ordinary wages.
In Calvin v. Huntley (1901) 178 Mass. 29, 32, 59 N. E. 435, we think the Supreme Court of Massachusetts properly interpreted section 4527, and in respect of it rightly said:
The decree of the District Court must be reversed. The cause will be remanded there for further proceedings in conformity with opinion.
[ Footnote 1 ] Section 162, British Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which corresponds to section 167, Act of 1854, provides: 'If a seaman, having signed an agreement, is dicharged otherwise than in accordance with the terms thereof before the commencement of the voyage, or before one month's wages are earned, without fault on his part justifying that discharge, and without his consent, he shall be entitled to receive from the master or owner, in addition to any wages he may have earned, due compensation for the damage caused to him by the discharge not exceeding one month's wages, and may recover that compensation as if it were wages duly earned.'