A-36424, MAY 25, 1931, 10 COMP. GEN. 525

A-36424: May 25, 1931

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FOR REIMBURSEMENT FOR A WATCH OWNED BY LIEUTENANT THOMPSON WHICH WAS DAMAGED BEYOND REPAIR WHEN A U.S. LIEUTENANT THOMPSON WAS KILLED IN THIS ACCIDENT. HE IS HEREBY. OTHERS IN THE NAVAL SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES AS MAY HAVE SUFFERED. NO SPECIFIC PROVISION IS CONTAINED IN THE ABOVE ACT AUTHORIZING THE PAYMENT OF CLAIMS OF LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE DECEASED OFFICERS. WHO MAY HAVE SUFFERED LOSS OF OR DAMAGE TO THEIR PERSONAL PROPERTY UNDER CONDITIONS WHICH WOULD HAVE PERMITTED THE SETTLEMENT OF THE PERSONAL CLAIMS OF SUCH PERSONS IF THEY HAD SURVIVED. IN CONSTRUING THIS LATTER ACT THE COMPTROLLER OF THE TREASURY HELD THAT PAYMENTS COULD BE MADE TO THE LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES OF OFFICERS AND ENLISTED MEN WHO DIED SUBSEQUENT TO THE LOSSES OF THEIR PROPERTY BUT BEFORE REIMBURSEMENT WAS MADE. (1 COMP.

A-36424, MAY 25, 1931, 10 COMP. GEN. 525

PROPERTY, PRIVATE - LOST IN THE NAVAL SERVICE THE RIGHT OF AN OFFICER OF THE NAVY TO REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE LOSS OR DESTRUCTION OF OR DAMAGE TO HIS PERSONAL PROPERTY UNDER THE ACT OF OCTOBER 6, 1917, 40 STAT. 389, AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1927, 44 STAT. 1368, WHEN SUCH LOSS, DESTRUCTION OR DAMAGE AND THE DEATH OF THE OFFICER OCCUR AT THE SAME TIME, DOES NOT VEST IN THE OFFICER PRIOR TO HIS DEATH, AND THEREFORE DOES NOT BECOME A PART OF HIS PERSONAL ESTATE WHICH PASSES ON HIS DEATH TO HIS HEIRS OR LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, MAY 25, 1931:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 25, 1931, AS FOLLOWS:

A CLAIM HAS BEEN RECEIVED IN THE NAVY DEPARTMENT FROM MRS. SOPHIE S. THOMPSON, WIDOW OF THE LATE LIEUTENANT P. B. THOMPSON, U.S. NAVY, FOR REIMBURSEMENT FOR A WATCH OWNED BY LIEUTENANT THOMPSON WHICH WAS DAMAGED BEYOND REPAIR WHEN A U.S. NAVY AIRPLANE PILOTED BY HIM CRASHED ON FEBRUARY 19, 1931, NEAR PENSACOLA, FLORIDA. LIEUTENANT THOMPSON WAS KILLED IN THIS ACCIDENT. THE CLAIM OF MRS. THOMPSON HAS BEEN SUBMITTED FOR SETTLEMENT UNDER THE ACT OF OCTOBER 6, 1917, AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1927. (SECTIONS 981-983, TITLE 34, U.S. CODE.)

THE ACT OF OCTOBER 6, 1917, AS AMENDED, PROVIDES IN PART AS FOLLOWS:

"THAT THE PAYMASTER GENERAL OF THE NAVY BE, AND HE IS HEREBY, AUTHORIZED AND DIRECTED TO REIMBURSE SUCH OFFICERS, ENLISTED MEN, AND OTHERS IN THE NAVAL SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES AS MAY HAVE SUFFERED, OR MAY HEREAFTER SUFFER, LOSS OR DESTRUCTION OF OR DAMAGE TO THEIR PERSONAL PROPERTY AND EFFECTS IN THE NAVAL SERVICE * * *.'

NO SPECIFIC PROVISION IS CONTAINED IN THE ABOVE ACT AUTHORIZING THE PAYMENT OF CLAIMS OF LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE DECEASED OFFICERS, ENLISTED MEN OR OTHERS IN THE NAVAL SERVICE, WHO MAY HAVE SUFFERED LOSS OF OR DAMAGE TO THEIR PERSONAL PROPERTY UNDER CONDITIONS WHICH WOULD HAVE PERMITTED THE SETTLEMENT OF THE PERSONAL CLAIMS OF SUCH PERSONS IF THEY HAD SURVIVED.

THE ACT OF OCTOBER 6, 1917, AS AMENDED, SUPERSEDED AND ENLARGED THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF MARCH 2, 1895 (28 STAT. 962). IN CONSTRUING THIS LATTER ACT THE COMPTROLLER OF THE TREASURY HELD THAT PAYMENTS COULD BE MADE TO THE LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES OF OFFICERS AND ENLISTED MEN WHO DIED SUBSEQUENT TO THE LOSSES OF THEIR PROPERTY BUT BEFORE REIMBURSEMENT WAS MADE. (1 COMP. DECISIONS 473; I COMP. DECISIONS 688.) HOWEVER, IN THESE CASES IT WAS INDICATED THAT, SO FAR AS THE CLAIM OF A LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE OF AN OFFICER WAS CONCERNED, PAYMENT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN AUTHORIZED WHERE THE DEATH OF THE OFFICER AND THE LOSS OF OR DAMAGE TO HIS PROPERTY RESULTED FROM THE SAME ACCIDENT.

A DECISION IS REQUESTED AS TO WHETHER THE CLAIM OF MRS. THOMPSON CAN LEGALLY BE APPROVED UNDER THE ACT OF OCTOBER 6, 1917, AS AMENDED,PROVIDED THE CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF NAVIGATION DETERMINES THAT THE ABOVE ACCIDENT CONSTITUTED A "SHIPWRECK OR OTHER MARINE DISASTER" AND THE PROPERTY INVOLVED IS CONTEMPLATED BY THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT.

THE ACT OF OCTOBER 6, 1917, 40 STAT. 389, AUTHORIZED THE PAYMASTER GENERAL OF THE NAVY TO REIMBURSE SUCH OFFICERS, ENLISTED MEN, AND OTHERS IN THE NAVAL SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES WHO SUFFER LOSS OR DESTRUCTION OF OR DAMAGE TO THEIR PERSONAL PROPERTY AND EFFECTS IN THE NAVAL SERVICE UNDER THE CONDITIONS AND LIMITATIONS THEREIN DESCRIBED, WHICH INCLUDED SUCH LOSSES OR DAMAGE CAUSED BY SHIPWRECK OR OTHER MARINE DISASTER. THIS ACT WAS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1927, 44 STAT. 1368, BY EXTENDING ITS PROVISIONS TO INCLUDE SUCH LOSSES OR DAMAGE CAUSED BY THE WRECK OF AN AIRCRAFT OR OTHER DISASTER THERETO. AS POINTED OUT BY YOU THE ACT CONTAINS NO PROVISIONS EXTENDING ITS BENEFITS TO THE HEIRS OR LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NAVAL PERSONNEL WHO MAY LOSE THEIR LIVES AS WELL AS THEIR PERSONAL PROPERTY IN SUCH WRECKS OR DISASTERS.

THE SECOND COMPTROLLER OF THE TREASURY IN CONSTRUING SECTION 290, REVISED STATUTES, PROVIDING FOR COMPENSATING OFFICERS OF THE NAVY AND MARINE CORPS FOR THEIR PERSONAL EFFECTS LOST UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES, HELD:

THE LAW PROVIDING COMPENSATION FOR LOSS OF PERSONAL EFFECTS (SECTION 290 OF THE REVISED STATUTES) APPLIES ONLY TO THE OFFICER HIMSELF, EXCEPT IN CASE OF THE DEATH OF THE OFFICER SUBSEQUENT TO THE DATE OF THE LOSS OF THE EFFECTS IN WHICH CASE IT MAY BE PAID TO THE HEIRS. BUT THE HEIRS CAN NOT BE PAID AN INDEMNITY FOR THE LOSS OF EFFECTS WHERE THE OFFICER LOST HIS LIFE BY THE SAME CASUALTY THAT CAUSED THE LOSS OF THE EFFECTS. (DIGEST DEC. SECOND COMP., VOL. 3, SEC. 784.)

IN 8 COMP. DEC. 688, IT WAS HELD THAT WHERE AN OFFICER OF THE NAVY WHO WAS ENTITLED UNDER THE ACT OF MARCH 2, 1895, 28 STAT. 962, TO REIMBURSEMENT FOR PRIVATE PROPERTY LOST BY THE WRECK OF A VESSEL, AND WHO DIED THEREAFTER BEFORE RECEIVING REIMBURSEMENT THEREFOR, THE AMOUNT TO WHICH HE WAS ENTITLED MIGHT BE PAID TO HIS HEIRS OR LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES.

APPARENTLY THE REASONS OF THE ABOVE HOLDINGS ARE THAT WHERE THE RIGHT OF THE OFFICER TO REIMBURSEMENT HAS VESTED SUCH VESTED RIGHT ON HIS DEATH PASSES TO HIS HEIRS OR LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES AS A PART OF HIS PERSONAL ESTATE, BUT WHERE THE OFFICER IS KILLED IN THE SAME ACCIDENT IN WHICH HIS PERSONAL PROPERTY IS LOST, THE RIGHT TO REIMBURSEMENT DOES NOT VEST IN THE OFFICER AND THEREFORE DOES NOT BECOME A PART OF HIS ESTATE WHICH PASSES ON HIS DEATH TO HIS HEIRS OR LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES.

THE RIGHT OF THE WIDOW OF LIEUTENANT THOMPSON UNDER THE ACT OF OCTOBER 6, 1917, AS AMENDED, IS AS HIS HEIR OR DISTRIBUTEE OF HIS ESTATE.

THE DESTRUCTION OF LIEUTENANT THOMPSON'S WATCH AND HIS DEATH APPARENTLY OCCURRED AT THE SAME TIME. AS HIS RIGHT TO REIMBURSEMENT UNDER THE ACT DID NOT VEST IN HIM PRIOR TO HIS DEATH, SUCH RIGHT WAS NOT A PART OF HIS ESTATE AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH, AND, THEREFORE, DID NOT PASS TO HIS HEIRS OR LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES.