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CATALDO v. UNITED STATES

November 26, 1952

CATALDO
v.
UNITED STATES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KAUFMAN

Four exceptions are raised to the amended libel. Exceptions (a) and (c) will be dealt with first.

The respondent urges that since a prior action entitled 'Donato Cataldo v. North Atlantic & Gulf Steamship Co., Inc.' Civil Docket No. 41-561, was not dismissed solely because improperly brought against the general agent of the respondent but for lack of prosecution, that the instant suit is time barred.

 Public Law 877, enacted December 13, 1950, amended the Suits in Admiralty Act to extend for a period of one year following December 13, 1950, the time within which suit might be brought thereunder

 'if such suit is based upon a cause of action whereon a prior suit in admiralty or an action at law was timely commenced and was or may hereafter be dismissed solely because improperly brought against any * * *corporation engaged by the United States to manage and conduct the business of a vessel owned or bareboat chartered by the United States * * *.' 46 U.S.C.A. ┬ž 745.

 The docket entries in the office of the Clerk of this Court reflect the following entry for December 15, 1950: 'Filed order dismissing cause for lack of prosecution.' This inscription then follows: 'Knox, J. (filed in Civ. 42-69).' I have examined the file in Civ. 42-69 and L can see no relationship whatsoever between that case and Civ. 41-561. Indeed, in Civ. 42-69, I find an order vacating the order of dismissal for lack of prosecution.

 I am led to the conclusion that this action was properly brought in accordance with Public Law 877.

 The amended libel alleges in Paragraph Ninth the following:

 'That a timely civil action, Civil 41-561, was commenced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by the libellant in this case against the defendant, North Atlantic & Gulf Steamship Co., Inc., the general agent of the steamship 'Abner Nash', and the civil action was dismissed under the authority of Cosmopolitan Shipping Co., v. McAllister, 337 U.S. 783 (69 S. Ct. 1317, 93 L. Ed. 1692) solely because it was improperly brought against the general agent.'

 It is apparent that on the face of the libel, the libellant has brought himself within the provisions of Public Law 877. The respondent urges by way of its brief that the notation in the court docket that the action was dismissed for lack of prosecution is sufficient to exclude this case from Public Law 877, for, the respondent argues, it follows that the previous action against the general agent was not dismissed solely because improperly brought.

 The libellant submits an affidavit of Archibald F. McGrath, an attorney associated with the proctor for the libellant, in reply to this contention. Mr. McGrath states:

 'On December 1, 1949, said Civil Action was No. 367 on the Civil Jury Calendar of this Court and was on the Ready Calendar. On that date, I called the late Hunter Merritt, Esq., who was handling this matter in the office of the proctor for the respondent herein, and asked him whether, in view of the fact that this case was a civil action brought against a general agent, and in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Cosmopolitan Shipping Co. v. McAllister, 337 U.S. 783 (69 S. Ct. 1317, 93 L. Ed. 1692), he would be agreeable to a stipulation, which was signed on December 7, 1949.

 'On December 8, 1950, this case was called on the Dismissal Calendar of this Court. In view of the state of the law at that time, I instructed my assistant to allow the action to be dismissed. Although the order of dismissal provided that the case was dismissed for lack of prosecution, the reason for this lack of prosecution was the McAllister case, and no other reason.'

 The explanation of Mr. McGrath is most reasonable. In view of the McAllister ruling and his conversations with Mr. Merritt, it would be likely that proctor would permit the case to be dismissed on the call of the general dismissal calendar of this court. The motivation, it appears quite clearly, was the McAllister case. Furthermore, it is not disputed that the dismissal was not a dismissal on the merits.

 Respondent refers me to Cohen v. United States, 2 Cir., 1952, 195 F.2d 1019. A reading of that case fortifies my belief that the amended libel should stand. Judge Chase, writing ...


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