Admiralty – Death on the High Seas Act – Effect on Workmen’s Compensation Recoveries

Decedent, aboard an airliner in his capacity as flight service supervisor, was killed when the plane crashed into the Pacific. Respondent airlines, decedent’s employer, filed an application with the California Industrial Accident Commission to determine its liability under the California Workmen’s Compensation Act. The commission awarded decedent’s widow a death benefit despite the widow’s objection to the commission’s jurisdiction. Prior to the award the widow as administratrix of decedent’s estate initiated this action under the Death on the High Seas Act (DHSA) in admiralty. On motion for summary judgment in respondent’s favor, held, motion granted. DHSA is applicable to deaths arising from crashes of aircraft on the high seas, but it was not intended to supersede state workmen’s compensation acts. Since the California compensation statute may be constitutionally applied in the present case, and since its remedy is exclusive, it abrogates the DHSA remedy. King v. Pan American Airways, (N.D. Cal. 1958) 166 F. Supp. 136.