United States v. Nielson

349 U.S. 129, 75 S.Ct. 654, 99 L.Ed. 939, 1955 AMC 935 (1955)

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United States v. Nielson

United States Supreme Court
349 U.S. 129, 75 S.Ct. 654, 99 L.Ed. 939, 1955 AMC 935 (1955)

Facts

Nielson (plaintiff), doing business as Dauntless Towing Line (Dauntless), entered into a contract with the United States (defendant) to provide towing services to assist in moving the United States vessel Christopher Gale from Hoboken, New Jersey, to a pier in Brooklyn. The contract between Dauntless and the United States stipulated that Dauntless would not be held liable for any damages for injuries that might be caused by the negligence of Dauntless’s employees and also provided that any Dauntless employee working on the Gale would be considered a servant of the United States as the vessel owner. As the Gale was underway, piloted by a Dauntless captain and attached by lines to two Dauntless tugs, one of the tugs was crushed between the Gale and the pier as a result of the pilot’s negligence. Dauntless sued the United States under admiralty law to recover damages for the injury to its tug, which was caused by the negligence of its own employee, under a theory that the pilot was acting as a servant of the United States at the time. The district court held that pilot’s negligence had caused the accident and ordered the United States to pay Dauntless for those damages. The court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Black, J.)

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