Chelentis (plaintiff) was employed by Luckenbach S. S. Co. (Luckenbach) (defendant) as a seaman on a steamship. While at sea, Chelentis suffered a broken leg while working on the deck in high winds when a wave came onboard and knocked him down. Chelentis was hospitalized, and his leg ultimately had to be amputated. Chelentis then sued Luckenbach for damages in New York state court under common-law claims of negligence and improper orders of a superior officer. No claims were made regarding the condition of the ship, medical care while at sea, or wages. The case was removed to federal district court under diversity jurisdiction. The district court directed a verdict for Luckenbach, and the court of appeals affirmed, ruling that the case is governed by maritime law standards as set forth in the case of The Osceola, 189 U.S. 158. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.