532 U.S. 811
121 S.Ct. 1927
150 L.Ed.2d 34
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
NORFOLK SHIPBUILDING & DRYDOCK CORPORATION, PETITIONER
CELESTINE GARRIS, administratrix of the ESTATE OF CHRISTOPHER GARRIS, DECEASED
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
Argued April 18, 2001
Decided June 4, 2001
In her complaint filed in the District Court, respondent alleged that her son died as a result of injuries sustained while performing sandblasting aboard a vessel berthed in the navigable waters of the United States. She further asserted that the injuries were caused by the negligence of petitioner and another, and prayed for damages under general maritime law. The District Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a federal claim, stating that no cause of action exists, under general maritime law, for death resulting from negligence. The Fourth Circuit reversed, explaining that although this Court had not yet recognized a maritime cause of action for wrongful death resulting from negligence, the principles contained in Moragne v. States Marine Lines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375, made such an action appropriate.
Held: The general maritime cause of action recognized in Moragne-for death caused by violation of maritime duties, id., at 409-is available for the negligent breach of a maritime duty of care. Although Moragne’s opinion did not limit its rule to any particular maritime duty, Moragne’s facts were limited to the duty of seaworthiness, and so the issue of wrongful death for negligence has remained technically open. There is no rational basis, however, for distinguishing negligence from unseaworthiness. Negligence is no less a maritime duty than seaworthiness, and the choice-of-law and remedial anomalies provoked by withholding a wrongful death remedy are no less severe. Nor is a negligence action precluded by any of the three relevant federal statutes that provide remedies for injuries and death suffered in admiralty: the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Because of Congress’s extensive involvement in legislating causes of action for maritime personal injuries, it will be the better course, in many cases that assert new claims beyond what those statutes have seen fit to allow, to leave further development to Congress. See, e.g., American Dredging Co. v. Miller, 510 U.S. 443, 455. The cause of action recognized today, however, is new only in the most technical sense. The general maritime law has recognized the tort of negligence for more than a century, and it has been clear since Moragne that breaches of a maritime duty are actionable when they cause death, as when they cause injury. Pp. 2-9.
210 F.3d 209, affirmed.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, Parts I, II-A, and II-B-1 of which were unanimous, and Part II-B-2 of which was joined by Rehnquist, C. J., and Stevens, O’Connor, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ.
Opinion of the Court
Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.