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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Willard Stewart
Dutra Construction Company
(argued the cause for Respondent)
(argued the cause for Petitioner, on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae)
(argued the cause for Petitioner)
Facts of the Case 

Willard Stewart was injured while working on a dredge (a machine for underwater digging) for Dutra, a dredging company. Stewart alleged Dutra was negligent and sued the company in federal district court under the Jones Act. The district court ruled a dredge is not a "vessel in navigation" as defined by the Jones Act and therefore Stewart could not sue under the act. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.


Is a dredge a "vessel" under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA)?

Decision: 8 votes for Stewart, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Longshoremen and Harbor Workers' Compensation

Yes. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court held that the Revised Statutes of 1873 specified that in any act passed after 1871, "vessel" included any watercraft capable of transportation. The requirement that a worker be on a vessel "in navigation," required by the LHWCA, simply meant that the vessel be capable of transportation. This included dredges which, both then and now, transported equipment and a crew over water.

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STEWART v. DUTRA CONSTRUCTION COMPANY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 04 June 2015. <>.
STEWART v. DUTRA CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited June 4, 2015).
"STEWART v. DUTRA CONSTRUCTION COMPANY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 4, 2015,