Kossick v. United Fruit Co.

365 U.S. 731 (1961)

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Kossick v. United Fruit Co.

United States Supreme Court
365 U.S. 731 (1961)

Facts

John Kossick (plaintiff) worked on a ship owned by United Fruit Company (United) (defendant). Kossick suffered from a thyroid condition for which United was obligated to pay for maintenance and cure. United insisted that Kossick undergo treatment at a public hospital in New York, where he could receive free care, but Kossick was concerned that he would receive inadequate treatment and asked United to pay for him to see a private doctor instead. United refused but orally agreed that if Kossick went to the public hospital, United would bear any consequences of improper treatment. Based on that promise, Kossick underwent treatment at the public hospital. However, Kossick allegedly received improper treatment and suffered serious injuries. Kossick sued United in federal district court, seeking to recover $250,000. The district court dismissed Kossick’s complaint after finding that the alleged agreement was void under New York’s statute of frauds because it was not in writing. The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal. On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court considered whether the alleged agreement was governed by state law or by maritime law, which generally treated oral agreements as valid.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Harlan, J.)

Dissent (Frankfurter, J.)

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