In Ira Bushey vs. USA (1968) the US Government was held liable for the conduct of a drunken sailor. After returning to the United States, a sailor on the Coast Guard cutter TAMAROA, then docked in a floating drydock in Bushey’s shipyard, turned some water valves, which tipped the ship onto its side and damaged the drydock. The United States Court of Appeals ruled that the seaman was a government employee and thus the government was liable for his actions. This case is often taught in law schools today.
Facts: Drunken seaman dislodges the ship, damaging the drydock wall.
Issue: Was the seaman in the scope of duty (employment) when he dislodged the ship and caused the damages.
Decision: Damages owed. Plaintiff wins.
Ratio: The employer should be held to expect risks, to the public also, which arise “out of and in the course of” his employment and labor.
Reasoning: It was foreseeable that crew members crossing the drydock might do damage, negligently or even intentionally, such as pushing a Bushey employee or kicking property into the water. Once all this is granted, it’s immaterial that employee’s precise action was not to be foreseen. The risk that seamen going and coming from the bar might cause damage to the drydock is enough to make it fair that the enterprise bears the loss.