Contribution and Indemnity: The Quest for Uniformity

When the Tulane Admiralty Law Institute addressed maritime personal injury and death in 1981, Francis J. Gorman contributed a scholarly review of the law of contribution and indemnity. The prior decade had seen dramatic changes in the substantive rules affecting contribution and indemnity in the maritime venue. The 1972 amendments to the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) had eliminated indemnity actions by shipowners against stevedoring employers, and three Supreme Court opinions, Cooper Stevedoring Co. v. Fritz Kopke, Inc., United States v. Reliable Transfer Co., and Edmonds v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, had broadened and shaped the allocation of loss among joint tortfeasors. This Article will analyze the development of maritime contribution and indemnity law over the last twelve years as it affects personal injury litigation. In doing so, the Article will focus on two topics that have troubled courts and commentators and have created uncertainty regarding the resolution of future claims: (1) the extent to which the so-called Ryan warranty retains vitality in personal injury litigation; and (2) the effect of settlement by one tortfeasor on nonsettling joint tortfeasors.