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Yamaha Motor Corp. v. Calhoun

Supreme Court of the United States

October 31, 1995, Argued ; January 9, 1996, Decided

No. 94-1387

Opinion

 [*201]  [**621]  [***583]    JUSTICE GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court.

 Twelve-year-old Natalie Calhoun was killed in a jet ski accident on July 6, 1989. At the time of her death, she was vacationing with family friends at a beach-front resort in Puerto Rico. Alleging that the jet ski was defectively designed  [*202]  or made, Natalie's parents sought to recover from the manufacturer pursuant to state survival and wrongful-death statutes. The manufacturer contended that state remedies could not be applied because Natalie died on navigable waters; federal, judge-declared maritime law, the manufacturer urged, controlled to the exclusion of state law.

Traditionally, state remedies have been applied in accident cases of this order -- maritime wrongful-death cases in which no federal statute specifies the appropriate relief and the decedent was not a seaman, longshore  [**622]  worker, or person otherwise engaged in a maritime trade. We hold, in accord with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, that ] state remedies remain applicable in such cases and have not been displaced by the federal maritime wrongful-death [****8]  action recognized in Moragne v. States Marine Lines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375, 26 L. Ed. 2d 339, 90 S. Ct. 1772 (1970).

Natalie Calhoun, the 12-year-old daughter of respondents Lucien and Robin Calhoun, died in a tragic accident on July 6, 1989. On vacation with family friends at a resort hotel in Puerto Rico, Natalie had rented a "WaveJammer" jet ski manufactured by Yamaha Motor Company, Ltd., and distributed by Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. (collectively, "Yamaha"), the petitioners in this case. While riding the WaveJammer, Natalie slammed into a vessel anchored in the waters off the hotel frontage, and was killed.

The Calhouns, individually and in their capacities as administrators of their daughter's estate, sued Yamaha in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Invoking Pennsylvania's wrongful-death and survival statutes, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 8301-8302 (1982 and Supp. 1995), the Calhouns asserted several bases for recovery (including negligence, strict liability, and breach of implied warranties), and sought damages for lost future earnings, loss of society, loss of support and services, and funeral expenses, as well as punitive damages.  [****9]  They grounded federal  [*203]  jurisdiction on both diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, 2 and admiralty, 28 U.S.C. § 1333.

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516 U.S. 199 *; 116 S. Ct. 619 **; 133 L. Ed. 2d 578 ***; 1996 U.S. LEXIS 463 ****; 64 U.S.L.W. 4048; 96 Cal. Daily Op. Service 183; 96 Daily Journal DAR 294; 96 Daily Journal DAR 441; 1996 AMC 305; 9 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 351

YAMAHA MOTOR CORPORATION, U. S. A., ET AL., PETITIONERS v. LUCIEN B. CALHOUN, ET AL., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATORS OF THE ESTATE OF CALHOUN, DECEASED

Prior History: ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 40 F.3d 622, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

maritime, wrongful-death, unseaworthiness, territorial waters, admiralty, maritime law, wrongful death, remedies, killed, court of appeals, district court, state law, longshore, cases, ship, state remedy, survivors, damages, displaced, federal maritime law, survival statute, nonseafarers, vessel, Seas, workers' compensation, state statute, jet ski, Jones Act, regulation, anomalies

Admiralty & Maritime Law, Maritime Death Actions, Wrongful Death & Survival, Damages, Maritime Personal Injuries, General Overview, Maritime Workers' Claims, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Interlocutory Orders, State Court Review, Jones Act, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, Coverage & Definitions, Status Requirement, Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, Business & Corporate Compliance, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Jones Act, Collisions, Practice & Procedure, Jurisdiction, Governments, Courts, Common Law, Torts, Wrongful Death & Survival Actions, Death on the High Seas Act, Coverage, Course of Employment, Maritime Tort Actions, Judicial Precedent, Transportation Law, Water Transportation, Maintenance & Safety, Maritime Contracts, Negligence, Maritime Tort Actions, Compensability, Remedies, Damages, Causation Requirements, Types of Damages, Compensatory Damages, Measurement of Damages