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MURPHY v. UNITED STATES

March 20, 1946

MURPHY
v.
UNITED STATES, War Shipping Administration



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WELSH

This is an action by an American merchant seaman to recover the proceeds of War Risk Insurance for injuries under the rules and regulations of the Maritime War Emergency Board.

Findings of Fact.

 1. The plaintiff, Edwin J. Murphy, an American merchant seaman, was engaged on or about September 29, 1942, by the defendant as an able seaman on board the defendant's steamship 'Gulf Maracaibo', for a voyage from Chester, Pennsylvania, to undisclosed ports anywhere in the world and return, for a period of twelve months.

 2. The 'Gulf Maracaibo' left for Hampton Roads, Virginia, on or about October 2, 1942, and was delayed at the latter point for about nineteen days waiting for Naval orders and convoy.

 3. The vessel sailed southbound on or about October 21, 1942, in convoy and under the direction and control of the United States Naval authorities.

 4. The vessel was manned by a crew of American merchant seamen and also by a Naval gun crew under the command of Naval Ensign Quinlan.

 5. The Naval Ensign had complete control over the vessel with respect to security regulations which included blacking out of the vessel.

 6. In furtherance of his duties, Naval Ensign Quinlan caused all lights to be removed from passageways and all doorway entrances and completely blinded all doorways by removing the lights and causing blackout curtains to be extended across the doorways including the four doorways on the midship deck below the wheelhouse.

 7. The midship deck was about nine feet wide with a roof overhead; it was enclosed except at the forward end; there were four doors opening out into the midship deck; starting from the port side the first door led to the port passageway where the officers' quarters were located; next was the door to the hospital room; next to that was the doorway which opened out to the shelter deck about nine feet below; there was a metal ladder leading from this doorway down to the deck below; next to that door was the fourth and last door which opened into the starboard passageway where the quartermaster's quarters were located.

 8. On October 23, 1942, while the vessel was in convoy, southbound under the control of the Navy, plaintiff was on lookout up to about 7:40 p.m. when he was directed to go below to call the next watch.

 9. Plaintiff descended to the midship deck for the purpose of calling the third mate and the quartermaster about 7:40 p.m. on the 23rd day of October; at that time the midship deck was in total darkness; all the lights had been extinquished and blackout curtains were in position across all four doors; plaintiff was proceeding to call the quartermaster and was groping his way with his fingers on the bulkhead trying to locate the door to the starboard passageway. He stepped into the doorway which he thought led to the passageway but which was actually the doorway to the ladder leading to the shelter deck. As he stepped in and parted the blackout curtains, he lost his balance on the narrow ledge at the top of the ladder and fell down to the shelter deck below.

 10. As a result of the blackout, plaintiff sustained the following injuries: fracture, comminuted head of humerus, left, dislocation, humerus head, left, Neuritis, Traumatic, Ulnar nerve, left, and a permanent disabling weakness of the left shoulder.

 11. Plaintiff obtained his first employment as a platform man for the American Railway Express in September, 1943; he was unable to perform the duties incident to this job and had to leave the employment after three or four weeks; thereafter, he went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a brakeman about the middle of November but had to leave this job also because he was required to hold on to the car with one hand while he signalled the engine. In the course of this work his arm would become weak and tired and almost paralyzed. Plaintiff has also acted as a relief mate in port for about five days.

 12. Plaintiff now has a permanent weakness in his arm which will prevent him from performing the job of able seaman which requires climbing aloft, pulling, lifting and ...


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